Skip to main content

10 Peculiar Tooth Tales From History That Sound too Strange to be True

By January 20, 2024February 5th, 2024Community

History holds some wacky tales that can sound too strange to be true — the history of dentistry included! And since Dr. Paddy and your Denver kids’ dentists at Kids Mile High Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics are all about making dentistry fun, we thought we’d dive into some of the more funny and bizarre tales from the history of dentistry. Here, ten stories that’ll make you grin, giggle or grimace!

1. George Washington’s Not-So-Wooden Teeth

Hmmm… famous people with false teeth? George Washington was one. It’s rumored he had wooden teeth! But spoiler alert: they weren’t wood. He had dentures made from human, cow, and horse teeth, along with some ivory. Now that’s a mouthful!

2. The Tooth Worm Theory

As part of the history of brushing teeth (or a lack of tooth brushing, actually), people believed that toothaches were caused by tiny worms burrowing inside teeth. Eww, gross! This “tooth worm” theory was accepted until the 1700s but if it was still believed today, imagine your Kids Mile High pediatric dentists examining your teeth for tiny, non-existent worms. Yikes!

3. Vikings’ Dental Fashion

Apparently, Vikings loved to accessorize, and their teeth were no exception. Archaeological findings suggest they filed patterns into their teeth. Some scientists think these horizontal grooves in the front teeth were for looks or to show off their status as fierce warriors.

4. Mayan Tooth Bling and Clean Teeth

The ancient Mayans’ famous, jewel-encrusted smiles were ahead of their time in dental fashion and oral health! They drilled holes in their teeth and set precious stones like jade, turquoise and pyrite into them. Teeth gems not only showed off status and wealth, but the glue used had antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory effects. Talk about fancy tooth decay prevention!

5. The Tooth Mouse

In Spain and many Hispanic folklore, a little mouse named “Ratoncito Pére”’ or “El Ratón de los Dientes” is like the tooth fairy, taking kids’ teeth from under their pillows and leaving a gift or money. This tall teeth tale was written down in a story for a young, eight-year-old King Alfonso the Eighth when he lost a baby tooth.

6. Queen Elizabeth I’s Sweet Tooth

In the history of famous bad teeth, Queen Elizabeth I of England takes the cake. Literally. The story goes she had a super fondness for sugar, which led to severe tooth decay. She even used sugar toothpaste to polish her teeth! Her teeth became so blackened that courtiers blackened their teeth to copy her, thinking it was fashionable.

7. Ancient Toothpaste Recipes

The Egyptians concocted the first known toothpaste around 5000 BC. In the history of brushing teeth, ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used toothpaste made of ox hooves’ ashes, burnt eggshells, pumice, powdered charcoal and tree bark. The Chinese included ingredients like ginseng, herbal mints and salt.

8. Kiss A Donkey To Heal That Toothache!

According to German legend in the Middle Ages, kissing a donkey was supposed to cure a toothache. How? Getting your teeth knocked out might mean you lose the tooth that hurts, and tada! No more toothache. But we’re pretty sure you’d then have a new oral issue on your hands.

9. Gold Teeth Goes Way Back

When you think of gold teeth, you can likely name a few famous smiles today that sport them. But gold teeth aren’t a new look — scientists believe gold teeth date back to the seventh century BC. Archaeologists have discovered teeth wound with gold wire in central Italy, likely the primitive dentures of wealthy Etruscan women.

10. Cotton Candy Created by… a Dentist?

Last but not least, the history of dentistry includes the invention of cotton candy! In 1897, dentist William Morrison co-invented cotton candy or “fairy floss.” Along with candymaker John Wharton, Dr. Morrison designed the machine that makes cotton candy and they sold the sweet treat at the 1904 World’s Fair.

More Smile Fun With Your Denver Pediatric Dentist

From famous bad teeth to warrior accessory, the history of dentistry shows that our chompers have been through a lot more than just chewing and smiling. But how about your smile? If it’s time for a check-up and cleaning, make an appointment at our Englewood, Thornton, or Central Park office today.

Dr. Paddy

Author Dr. Paddy

More posts by Dr. Paddy