Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Max Melton's Remarkably Efficacious Tooth Powder

Photo in courtesy ofhttp://www2.needham.k12.ma.us/eliot/technology/lessons/History_Needham/schoolhouse/graves/dr_lyon.html 

"I mixed the hot water and the cold in the basin, and I washed my face and my hands. I cleaned my teeth with the cold water. There was no toothpaste, but there was a small round tin box on which was written Max Melton’s Remarkably Efficacious Tooth Powder, in old-fashioned letters. I put some of the white powder on my green toothbrush, and cleaned my teeth with it. It 
tasted minty and lemony in my mouth. ''

Reading this on Neil gaiman's  "The ocean on the end of the lane" I wanted to find out if that tooth powder did exist. Searching the web I did not find that kind of tooth powder, but found many others.                                                                                                                           
History of tooth powder
Tooth powder was generally used by the Romans, who used many substances, such as the bones and horns of certain animals; crabs; egg-shells, and the shells of oysters . They were reduced to a powder after having been previously burnt.
Tooth powder was used to clean and whiten teeth and to and to strengthen the gums
The earliest mention of tooth care among the Romans comes from a poem:
"Calpurnius, I greet you with some quick verse. I sent you, just as you asked me to, clean teeth and a bright smile, the product of Araby, a little powder, noble, fine and whitening, something to reduce the swelling of your little gums, to brush away yesterday's leftovers, so that nothing dingey and nasty might be seen should you part your lips in laughter."
This same reference cites the "utterly repulsive things they do in Spain, according to Catullus: he'd be using his own urine "to brush his teeth and his red gums." 
 In modern times, baking soda has been the most commonly used tooth powder, although this has now been mostly replaced by commercial toothpastes.
The primary ingredient in a tooth powder is an abrasive to lift plaque and food from the teeth. baking soda  is a common abrasive, along with salt or chalk. A soap may be included to encourage the powder to foam. It may also include antibacterial ingredients like tea tree extract, or a flavoring such as mint. To use the powder, people measure out a small amount, dip a wet toothbrush into it, and brush their teeth.
While dental hygiene has improved immensely over the ages, tooth powder has actually been around for quite a long time. The Egyptians used it, for example, as did the ancient Asian cultures. Europeans tended to use plain toothbrushes with no water until around the 1800's, when cleaning powders became popular. Some commercial preparations were actually quite dangerous, due to the use of toxic filler ingredients. Toothpaste began to be marketed in the late 1800's, although it did not catch on immediately.
 Tooth powder can be made more exciting with the addition of food-grade essential oils and extracts. Ingredients like mint and tea tree oil can leave the mouth feeling clean and crisp, while cinnamon can help fight bacteria in the mouth and it will leave a warm feeling behind. The powder can be kept in a  jar in the bathroom. It is better to use a scoop to drop a bit of powder into their hands, rather than dipping wet toothbrushes into the container; this will help prevent contamination.

The world's oldest-known formula for toothpaste, before Colgate began, has been discovered on a piece of dusty papyrus in the basement of a Viennese museum.
An ancient Egyptian scribe has carefully described what he calls a "powder for white and perfect teeth".
When mixed with saliva in the mouth, it forms a "clean tooth paste".
According to the document, written in the fourth century AD, the ingredients needed for the perfect smile are one drachma of rock salt - a measure equal to one hundredth of an ounce - two drachmas of mint, one drachma of dried iris flower and 20 grains of pepper, all of them crushed and mixed together.

The earliest record of an actual tooth powder was in 1780 and included scrubbing the teeth with a formula containing burnt bread. (A common North American breakfast)

Other tooth powders around this time called for:
·         1 1/2 oz. dragons blood (So that's where they all went!!)
·         1 1/2 oz. cinnamon
·         1 oz. burnt alum
Beat the above ingredients together and use every second day.

The 19th Century
·         In the 19th century, charcoal became very popular for teeth cleaning purposes.
·         Most tooth pastes at this time were in the form of a powder.
·         The purpose of the tooth powder was not only to clean the teeth, but to give fresh breath.
·         The succulent strawberry (still available today) was considered to be a "natural" solution for preventing tartar and giving fresh breath.
·         In 1855, the Farmer's Almanac included this recipe for an appropriate toothpaste:
1 oz. myrrh (fine powder)
2 spoonfuls of your best honey
A pinch of green sage

Mix together and use every night on wet teeth.
·         Another tooth paste included:
2 oz. cuttlefish bone
1 oz. cream of tartar
2 drachms drop lake
15 drops clover oil

Powder, mix, sift.
The 20th Century
·         Liquid cleansers (mouth rinses) and pastes became more popular, often containing chlorophyll to give a fresh green color.
·         Bleeding gums became a concern as well as aching teeth.
·         In 1915 leaves from certain trees in South East Asia (Eucalyptus) were beginning to be used in mouthwash formulas.

·         sodium monofluorophosphate
·         color
·         flavoring
·         fluoride
·         foaming agents
·         detergents
·         humectants (prevent the paste from hardening)
·         Herbal toothpastes have gained popularity for people looking for a "natural" toothpaste or for those who don't want fluoride in their dental cleansers. Some herbal toothpastes contain:
peppermint oil
plant extract (strawberry extract)
special oils and cleansing agents 
Hey, didn't we see these ingredients in the toothpastes of the early 19th century? 

DIY- make your own tooth powder at home: