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Brief history of oral hygiene

* In 1728, the father of modern dentistry, the Frenchman Pierre Fauchard (1678-1761) developed a drill driven by catgut twisted round a cylinder. Before then cavities were drilled with picks or scissors and, later, a two-edged instrument twirled between the fingers. The first motor-driven drill appeared in 1864, invented by Englishman George F Harrington

* Material for the earliest fillings included stone chips, turpentine resin, gum and metals. By the 16th century, Ambrose Pare (1510-1590) was using lead or cork. A century later, Pierre Fauchard favoured tin foil or lead. Gold became popular in the early 19th century. The first amalgam was developed in 1816 by Auguste Taveau of France, who mixed filings from silver coins with mercury

* The first crowns, made of gold, were used by the Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago. They fell out of use during the Middle Ages, and didn't return to favor until the 19th century, made of porcelain on a platinum post

* The Etruscans also used false teeth made from bone and ivory, secured by gold bridgework as early as 700bc. But during the Middle Ages, false teeth were rare and gaps common even among the rich. Queen Elizabeth I filled the holes in her mouth with cloth to improve her appearance. The most popular material for making false teeth was ivory, but human teeth were also used, pulled from the dead or sold by poor people from their own mouths

* The Egyptians, Chinese, Greek and Romans used pastes and powders to clean their teeth. The more palatable ingredients included powdered fruit, burnt shells, honey and dried flowers. Less enticing ingredients included mice, hares' heads, lizards' livers and urine. Modern toothpastes with soap and chalk didn't appear until the 1800s

Source: World of Inventions, edited by B Travers

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