Elizabeth I, Queen of England, was known for her intellect, force of character, diplomacy, and charm. Dignitaries from abroad also noted that the Virgin Queen had black teeth. It is said that she had missing teeth, although she was so terrified about having a diseased tooth removed, one of her advisors had to convince her to do so by having his own tooth removed.
Considering the options for oral hygiene in the 16th century, it's not surprising that Good Queen Bess suffered from bad teeth. She probably consumed lots of sugary sweets, as did many people of the era, making her dental problems even worse.
Although people had been using tooth 'brushes,' actually, rags, twigs, pieces of bone and such-to scrub their teeth since ancient times, modern toothpaste didn't make its debut until the 18th century. About 1780, someone in North America prepared a toothpaste made of burnt bread.
Tasty and not so tasty
Still, people desired white, shiny teeth and clean breath. A fourth-century formula from Egypt called for a mixture of rock salt, mint, dried iris flower and pepper. Perhaps the mint, iris and pepper were a tasty combination for toothpaste with antioxidants.
Other, less tasty combinations have come down through history: Ashes from the burned heads of mice and other animals were thought to heal sore gums. Egg shells, pumice, even urine were included in the pastes and powders that were rubbed on to teeth. Some of these may have been overly abrasive on tooth enamel.
Recipes from the 19th century, such as from the Farmer's Almanac, give some insight to the state of dentifrices. Tooth powders included ingredients such as succulent strawberry, myrrh, honey, sage, clover oil, cuttlefish bone, and cream of tartar. In the early 20th century, eucalyptus and chlorophyll became common ingredients. Most of these substances brought natural enzymes and antioxidants to toothpaste and other mixtures.
In the mid-20th century, dentists discovered that adding fluoride to toothpaste worked wonders in reducing cavities. In the 21st century, toothpaste manufacturers are focusing on ingredients to whiten and toothpaste with antioxidants to promote healthy gums and a balanced pH level.
Today, Elizabeth II, Queen of England, is known for her intellect, force of character, diplomacy, and charm. And though her dental hygiene is a private matter, her beautiful smile with gleaming white teeth are clearly seen in photographs. No black or missing teeth; thanks to modern dental care and toothpaste.