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Dentistry in the Middle Ages. Source: Archivist / Adobe Stock.

Dental Hygiene in the Middle Ages (Video)

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Medieval dental hygiene debunked the misconception of poor oral health. Contrary to popular belief, our ancestors prioritized tooth care and believed that diseases could be spread through bad breath. While toothbrushes were primarily for the privileged, many relied on a simple yet effective alternative—the twig. Hazel twigs, abundant during medieval times, were chewed to create a brush-like texture that cleaned teeth surprisingly well. Though it tasted of green wood, it was a mild and tolerable experience. To enhance cleanliness, abrasives like salt and cloves were incorporated. Grinding salt finely and applying it to the twig's end added scrubbing power. Cloves, with their pleasant aroma and pain-relieving properties, served as a breath freshener. In fact, oil of cloves is still used today to alleviate toothache.

Though this dental care routine required effort and preparation, it reflected the meticulousness of the era. It is important to dispel the notion of widespread dental issues among medieval people. Historical burial records actually indicate that they had better teeth and fewer cavities than us. While dental extractions were the only treatment available, their commitment to oral hygiene played a significant role in maintaining dental health. The medieval approach may lack the convenience of modern toothpaste, but it highlights the importance of dedicated care and attention to oral well-being.

Top image: Dentistry in the Middle Ages. Source: Archivist / Adobe Stock.

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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