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Questions about Greece and Rome

How did the ancient Greeks brush their teeth?

Dr. dig responds:
The ancient Greeks (and Romans) did not have toothbrushes like our modern ones. They did have a kind of toothpaste, which was a powder that they wiped on their teeth with a cloth or with their fingers. There was the toothpick, that the Romans called a dentiscalpium. Because dental hygiene was not very good, herbal remedies for bad breath were very popular!

(Posted by reader) It is interesting to note that teeth have been an important clue to the past. As to brushing their teeth and tooth decay, this provides excellent dietary information. Remains of the California Indians display a very marked tooth decay, attributed to their habit of leaching the tannin out of acorns, their staple food, through a bed of sand, which caused excessive tooth abrasion. Decay and loss of teeth can also set in thanks to starchy and sugary foods. Dental caries (a.k.a. cavities) became abundant on the coast of Georgia (USA) in the 12th century AD, particularly among the female population. It was in this period that the transition occurred from hunting, fishing, and gathering to maize (corn) agriculture. The anthropologist Clark Larsen believes that the rise of tooth decay over this period, revealed by studying hundreds of skeletons, was caused by carbohydrates in the maize. Since it is the women who were more subject to the cavities than the men, it is probable that they were growing, harvesting, preparing, and cooking the corn, while the men ate more protein and less carbohydrate. However , not all scientists accept these conclusions, pointing out that women may have suffered from more cavities in a period of high population growth because of greater loss of calcium with the higher number of pregnancies. Again...noting the case of the Greek and Romans, I'd offer the opinion that their diet was also more composed of protein and not so sugary, considering the vegetation and food available in the region.


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