‘I told you so’ is not the thing to say to a victim of toothache for they will already have perceived the point of oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist and all they will wish is for the pain to be removed. Toothache appears to occur most frequently at night or during the holiday period, making the need for an instant panacea of paramount importance.
Sweets, sugary foods and fizzy drinks are appallingly detrimental to the care of teeth and gums. The acid and sugar combine to make the noxious plaque in which bacteria can fester and cause gum disease and tooth decay. A good diet from birth with the correct balance of vitamins and minerals in necessary for the development of strong teeth but even with the best possible advantages regular visits to the dentist are essential and so is regular cleaning of the teeth after each meal. Contrary to popular belief an apple is no substitute for this routine, so if you cannot clean you teeth after meals buy one of the special chewing gums which dentists recommend as being better than nothing. Use dental flos and toothpicks (and use them gently) to remove small particles of food from between the teeth – this will do much to ensure healthy gums.
At one time toothbrushes and toothpaste were unheard of and the bark or twigs of shrubs were used with pains taking care to keep the teeth free of detritus. The end of the stick was chewed and softened until frayed and carefully infiltrated into every crevice in the mouth. Elder wood twigs were most commonly used in the british Isles but most countries throughout the world had their own favourites.
Considering that years ago the victim of toothache probably had to live with it until the tooth rotted in his head (the alternatives being too awful to contemplate), a great deal of thought was given to the best ways of preventing this happening. Appealing to Divine intervention was obviously thought the best method for the most powerful talisman one could carry around was the double jaw bone of a very ancient haddockproving no doubt that you were a good Christian, knew of the haddock’s Biblical connections and had no right to suffer the purgatory of toothache. Another merry thought was a religious script proclaiming one’s desire to lead a good, toothache-free life, and this was carried around the neck for double indemnity. Rabbit’s or sheep’s teeth were also carried in a small leather bag near the throat or failing either of these amulets a hedgehog’s skull or double hazelnut which does not look unlike a large double tooth – were guarantee that should toothache strike the pain would be transferred to the charm. Another ancient rhyme suggests that one should chew the first fresh fern of the year as insurance against toothache and of this one would be guaranteed as it would have probably caused death instead.
It is interesting to note that although the majorit of hare-brained superstitions were practiced by the wealthy as well as the lowly it was the country folk who were the ones to employ sensible practices to keep their mouths healthy. They used elder toothpicks the elder vinegar as a mouthwash, they strengthened their gums by rubbing them with blackthorn or sage leaf and they made a variety or kitchen powders using soot, salt, charcoal, burnt bread or rye meal and herbs to cleanse and whiten the teeth at the same time as they stimulated the gums and disinfected the mouth.