Old fashioned advice: How to care for your teeth

An object very subservient to health, and which merits due attention, is the preservation of the teeth, the care of which, considering their importance in preparing the food for digestion, is, in general, far from being sufficiently attended to. Many persons neglect to wash their mouth, in the morning, which ought always to be done. Indeed this ought to be practiced at the conclusion of every meal, where either animal food or vegetables are eaten, for the former is apt to leave behind it a rancid acrimony, and the latter an acidity, both of them hurtful to the teeth. Washing the mouth frequently with cold water is not only serviceable in keeping the teeth clean, but in strengthening the gums, the firm adhesion of which to the teeth is of great importance in preserving them sound and secure. The addition of a few drops of tincture of myrrh to the water will make it more cleansing and sweeter to the breath.

_Tooth Powders._

Many persons, while laudably attentive to the preservation of their teeth, do them hurt by too much officiousness. They daily apply to them some dentifrice powder, which they rub so hard as not only to injure the enamel by excessive friction, but to hurt the gums even more than by the abuse of the toothpick. The quality of some of the dentifrice powders advertised in newspapers is extremely suspicious, and there is reason to think that they are not altogether free from a corrosive ingredient. One of the safest and best compositions for the purpose is a mixture of two parts of prepared chalk, one of Peruvian bark, and one of hard soap, all finely powdered, which is calculated not only to clean the teeth without hurting them, but to preserve the firmness of the gums.

Besides the advantage of sound teeth for their use in mastication, a proper attention to their treatment conduces not a little to the sweetness of the breath. This is, indeed, often affected by other causes existing in the lungs, the stomach, and sometimes even in the bowels, but a rotten state of the teeth, both from the putrid smell emitted by carious bones and the impurities lodged in their cavities, never fails of aggravating an unpleasant breath wherever there is a tendency of that kind. [See pages 307, 308.

_Loose Teeth._

When the teeth are loosened by external violence, by falls and blows, or by the improper use of instruments in pulling diseased teeth in the neighbourhood of sound ones, they may again be made tolerably fast by pressing them as firmly as possible into their sockets, and preserving them so with ligatures of cat-gut, Indian weed or waxed silk, and keeping the patient upon spoon-meat till they are firm. When looseness of the teeth is owing to decay, nothing will fasten them till the cause be removed, and this ought to be done early, otherwise it will have no effect. Frequently the teeth become loose from a sponginess of the gums, often attributed to scurvy. The best remedy is scarifying the gums deeply, and allowing them to bleed freely; this should be repeated till they are fully fastened. Mild astringents, as tincture of bark, are here attended with good effects, though those of a strong nature will certainly do harm. The mouth should be frequently washed with cold water strongly impregnated with these, and the patient should not use the teeth which have been loose till they become firm again. The loosening of the teeth in old age cannot be remedied, as it is owing to the wasting of their sockets, from which the teeth lose their support.

_Foul Teeth._

The teeth sometimes become yellow or black without any adventitious matter being observed on them; at other times they become foul, and give a taint to the breath, in consequence of the natural mucus of the mouth, or part of the food remaining too long about them. The most frequent cause of foul teeth is the substance called tartar, which seems to be a deposition from the saliva, and with which the teeth are often almost entirely encrusted. When this substance is allowed to remain, it insinuates itself between the gums and the teeth, and then gets down upon the jaw in such a manner as to loosen the teeth. When they have been long covered with this or with any other matter, it is seldom they can be cleaned without the assistance of instruments. But when once they are cleaned they may generally be kept so by rubbing them with a thin piece of soft wood made into a kind of brush and dipped into distilled vinegar, after which the mouth is to be washed with common water.

_Cleaning the Teeth._

When the teeth are to be cleaned with instruments, the operator ought, with a linen cloth or with a glove, to press against the points of the teeth, so as to keep them firm in their sockets with the fingers of the one hand while he cleans them with the necessary instruments held in the other, taking care not to scrape them so hard as to loosen them, or to rub off the enamel. This being done, the teeth should be rubbed over with a small brush or a piece of sponge dipped in a mixture of cream of tartar and Peruvian bark. The same application may be made to the teeth for a few days, when afterwards they may be kept clean as already directed.

The teeth are sometimes covered over with a thin dark colored scurf, which has by some been mistaken for a wasting of the enamel, but which is only an extraneous matter entering it. By perseverance this may be cleaned off as completely as where the teeth are covered with tartar; but it is apt, after some time, to appear again. When this is observed the same operation must be repeated.

For the purpose of applying powders or washes to the teeth, a hard or soft brush is commonly employed; the latter is supposed preferable, as being in less danger of wearing down the enamel or of separating the teeth.


Toothache may be of either of three kinds: from irritation of the nerve, exposed in the hollow of a decaying tooth; from inflammation of the jaw, with or without a gathering at the root of a tooth; and from neuralgia. For the first of these, there is a certain cure; but it requires care in the application. Wrap a small pledget of raw cotton around the point of a knitting or darning needle, and dip it in creasote; then insert the point with the cotton directly into the hollow of the aching tooth. If it reach the nerve, it will give relief instantly. The cotton may be left in for a while, covered by a dry piece. Care is needed not to let the creasote drop or run upon the lips or gums, on which it will act as a caustic. If a drop should escape, however, little or no harm will follow if the mouth be at once washed well with cold water.

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