Strange historical dental remedies for toothache – from ‘spider juice’ to spuds
Today is National Toothache Day and if you’ve ever suffered from pain in your gnashers you’ll know it’s one of the toughest aches to deal with.
The idea is to raise awareness of good oral health, with Colgate Total reporting a soaring number of Brits suffering the painful affliction and other dental issues.
And it’s no wonder – research has found we’ve let dental standards slip during the pandemic with one in five only brushing once a day and a quarter never flossing.
These days we can just ring up the dentist when hit by an ache. But there have been some wild and wacky dental remedies from history, as Nadine Linge reveals.
Check out these unusual historical toothache cures and ask yourself “would I ever go this far?”
Worm your way in
The idea of “tooth worms” originated in Mesopotamia in 1800BC and persisted until the 18th century. It was believed a small worm burrowed into your gnashers and caused pain. One “cure” involved smearing honey on an aching tooth to lure out the critter.
In Scotland it was believed a caterpillar wrapped in red cloth and placed under the aching tooth could counteract
the pain caused by tooth worms.
Ancient Egyptians wore amulets to prevent getting a pain and treated “gnawing of the blood in the tooth” with a concoction of onion, cake, dough and plant leaves, chewed for four days.
Another Egyptian cure was to mash up dead mice with other ingredients to apply to the painful area. For serious cases, individuals would whack on an entire dead mouse.
All Greek to me
The people of ancient Greece used donkey’s milk as a mouthwash to strengthen teeth and ward off pains. Medieval Germans believed kissing a donkey would cure them.
He must be croaking
Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder advised those suffering to catch a frog by moonlight, spit in its mouth and ask it to take away the pain.
Amphibians also appeared as a cure in 19th century Ireland when putting a live frog in your mouth was suggested, as well as drinking water from a holy well.
In addition the Irish deployed the humble potato, with the sufferer carrying it in their pocket as an amulet. They also packed an infected tooth with tobacco.
Walk it off
In 13th Welsh folklore, remedies included ivy bark, honeysuckle leaves, holly and other plants. They were shaped into a ball between the tooth and cheek with patients then instructed to walk for a mile and repeat the whole process three times.
The Aztecs suggested chewing on chillies – the compound capsaicin found in the hot peppers does have some pain-numbing properties, so not as crazy as it sounds.
Our feathered friends were thought to have the answer in medieval times, either
by wearing a magpie’s beak around your neck or placing a paste of partridge brain on the tender area.
Another remedy from medieval Britain was to steal a corpse’s tooth from its grave and wear it as an amulet.
Web of cries
Spider juice was made of “spiders, eggshells, and oil boiled together until reduced to one-third of its volume” which the sufferer then held in their mouth.
Would you ever try any of these remedies? Tell us in the comments below…
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