24 June 2008

Fighting dental plaque in the 17th century

Last month I blogged an entry about a combination toothpick and earwax spoon. Today Neatorama provides some additional information about the use of the instrument for dental hygiene:

Ear pickers, though not all of silver, were used by all levels of society in medieval and post-medieval England. As was the fashion for many of these tools, this one is double-ended. The pointed end was used to clean teeth and nails, and the spoon-shaped end was used to remove earwax. The 17th-century English knew about plaque, which they called “scale” or “surf,” and they were encouraged by their doctors to scrape their teeth frequently. They also knew that a buildup of earwax could cause deafness. As gross as that may seem to us today, the earwax was often saved and used for coating sewing thread to make it stronger and easier to use.

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