Flashback to the 1800s: Oral Hygiene Then and Now

It’s always fascinating to see how far we’ve come over the past hundred years or so. Other than fashion, nowhere are these changes more obvious than in matters of health and hygiene. Modern dental technology and improved access to professional dentistry have made it easier than ever to maintain a higher quality of oral health, so much that it makes us wonder how we ever got along without it! Dr. Shawn Hofkes, who offers oral surgery in Cerritos, CA, takes a closer look at Rules of Etiquette and Home Culture, published in 1889, for insight into the evolution of home dental care.

What They Got Right

Surprisingly, many of the pointers given in Rules of Etiquette still hold true today. The authors advise readers of the importance of oral health as it relates to overall health, also noting that healthy teeth are beautiful teeth. Readers are told that they should visit their dentist once every six months, a rule of thumb that holds true for most patients today. However, more frequent visits may be recommended for some patients, such as those who have periodontal disease. The book also touches on the potential damage to teeth and gums caused by using tobacco products, not least of which is oral cancer.

What They Didn’t

Several practices outlined in Rules of Etiquette wouldn’t hold water today. For example, readers are encouraged to use a toothbrush with stiff bristles while avoiding “injurious” tooth washes. Bad idea, says Dr. Hofkes. The American Dental Association recommends soft-bristled toothbrushes only; anything stiffer could damage the tooth enamel and hurt sensitive gum tissue.

Readers are also advised that rinsing the mouth with vinegar is a safe and effective means of removing tartar from the teeth. Vinegar is highly acidic. Technically, bathing your teeth in vinegar could remove a small amount of buildup from the surface of your teeth. Unfortunately, it could also remove a small amount of enamel.

Questions about oral hygiene? To learn more about extractions or dental implants, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shawn Hofkes, contact our Cerritos dentist office. We welcome patients living in Cerritos, Fullerton, Long Beach, Lakewood, and the surrounding areas.