Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chew on this (if you can, gummy)

The Mail has a piece on a rare book on 18th-century dentistry to be auctioned this month:
Written in 1770 by Thomas Berdmore, who was considered to be the outstanding dentist in England and was known as 'Operator for the Teeth' to King George III, it makes toe-curling reading as he details how pliers and wire were used to give a patient a brilliant smile. . . .

Addressing the subject of 'how to bring teeth which are ill into beautiful order', he wrote: 'Pass gold wire from the neighbouring teeth on either side, in such a manner as to press upon what stands out of the line.'

The somewhat drastic alternative, Berdmore suggested, was to 'break the teeth into order by means of a strong pair of crooked pliers'.

The book, called 'A Treatise On The Disorders And Deformities Of The Teeth And Gums And The Most Rational Methods Of Treating Them', is thought to be the first-ever English-language tome on the art of dentistry.

Berdmore also encouraged youngsters with milk teeth to 'chew upon coral, wax and suchlike bodies', and advised: 'Cracking nuts is hurtful to teeth, as is the custom young girls have for cutting sewing thread with their teeth.
As true now as it was then:
'The boyish custom of carrying a table or chair in their mouth is as dangerous as it is absurd. Tooth picks are also very bad practice.'

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