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Medieval England’s Bad Breath Solutions

Medieval England’s Bad Breath Solutions

BACK IN MEDIEVAL times in England (and in most other places, to be fair), people didn’t have a great understanding of what caused cavities or gum disease, but they still cared about having fresh breath. It wasn’t just out of politeness — they believed that bad smells could carry disease on their own, including bad breath.

Medieval Breath Fresheners

So what was their smell-based dental care? They chewed spices, which we can see an example of in the Canterbury Tales where Chaucer’s characters stay fresh by chewing licorice and cardamom. We also know that women were sometimes recommended a mixture of aniseed, fennel, and cumin to chew.

Cracking a Tooth on Your Bread

Some of the modern causes of dental problems didn’t apply back then. Cavities wouldn’t start to become common until the sugar trade reached England in the 1400s. However, grinding flour between millstones tended to leave tiny chips of stone in their bread. It was pretty easy to crack a tooth on that, and it was a big reason many adults lost several teeth in their lifetimes.

Strange “Cures” for Toothaches

Aside from combating bad breath, they also tried to treat toothaches. The rich could afford myrrh and opium, but everyone else had to make do with dubious remedies like burning a mutton fat and sea holly seed candle near their mouths, which was supposed to lure out the “worms” hiding inside the teeth. (We now know that what they thought were worms were just the roots of teeth!)

When it comes to dental health, isn’t it nice living in modern times?

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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Linda Clague

Alex, . Morgan, and Dr Geo are very personable and professional. I felt very relaxed the entire visit.I especially appreciated Dr. Geo's careful mouth and teeth exam. They explained everything step by step and allowed time for questions.


On my first visit I meet Becky, we sat down and talked about everything they do there and she allowed me to tell her about my issues with my teeth and she felt that they could help me with my problem. This is the first time I have ever been able to explain, in detail, about my past and present experiences with my dental problems. She made me feel very comfortable in taking about my care and what I would like to have done with my denture issue's. I have set up my next appointment to have x-rays done and feel very good about that! I'm looking forward to my visit and what they have to say about fixing my problem .

Dolly Kite

My dad had the appt there at the office for a broken tooth. They worked him in and made the experience as pleasant as possible for an 86 year old man. I appreciate the care, understanding and patience for him. Great visit! Great Doctor!!

beverly morris

I go to smiles for life I can't thank them enough for there kindness and caring I really like Dr Geo there all awesome but he's my favorite ♥️ they are all very friendly and make you feel very comfortable just like one big Happy family

Lynn Reedy

The best staff !! The most friendly staff of any dentist office I have ever been too. Dr Geo is the best. Super friendly. Recommend this dentist office to any one especially if you have a fear of dentist (as I myself ).

Warren Wise

Just had my first visit with Dr. Whiting at Smiles for Life in Bridgewater. My welcome to the office was warm and inviting. The dental assistant was professional, proficient, and very gentle. Dr.Whiting is very good at explaining problems he saw with my teeth and outline options for addressing those problems.

Jennifer Harper

Cathy Batton is an amazing hygienist and is so gentle but very thorough. She is very kind, and I am always happy to see her when I go to the dentist! She makes going to the dentist more fun!

Sandy Miller

I love Cathy!! She does a great job and is always very personable and professional. Give her a raise!! 😊 Everyone at Smiles for Life is great! If you’re looking for a dentist, I would highly recommend them.

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