Make Medieval Toothpaste

Have you ever wondered how our medieval ancestors cleaned their teeth? When we think of medieval times, we picture peasants with rotted and blackened teeth and who used soot to polish them. Ughh! Can you imagine a toothache with only the local blacksmith to pull out the offending tooth? Ouch!

However, twigs from the native hazel tree found in our upland Dartmoor oakwoods, were used as toothbrushes and called cleaning twigs.

Follow the recipe below to find out just how medieval people cleaned their teeth and to make your very own medieval toothpaste from herbs and rock salt. How does it compare with the toothpaste you use today?

Health and Safety: although these recipes are not intended to be consumed do consider any allergies before using.

You will need:Box of rock salt, cloves, rosemary, mint and pestle and mortar

  • Pestle and mortar
  • Cloves
  • Rock salt
  • Fresh or dried herbs

Step 1

Ideally, gather some herbs from your garden if you have some growing. Otherwise, you will find bagged herbs in most supermarkets. Put a small handful of cloves into the mortar. These can be whole cloves or ready ground.

Cloves are analgesic which means they stop your nerves from feeling pain.

Step 2

Add a small handful of rock salt and a little water. Salt will clean any infections from sores in your mouth and help things heal. You can experiment with different flavours of toothpaste with different flavours of herbs. Sage works well or rosemary, or mint of course, which we still use for fresh breath today.

Step 3

Crush the contents with the pestle. This is hard work so stick at it. When you have a smooth paste, not too wet, wrap it in a leaf as there were no toothpaste tubes invented in medieval times.

Step 4

Try it on your teeth. Either use your finger or carefully with the end of a small hazel twig. Rinse out and don’t swallow.
So, what do you think? Is it pleasant or did you pull a face? Will you swap it for the toothpaste you use today?

Would you have liked to have lived in medieval times? If you had toothache there were no dentists to fill in holes or give fillings. Can you imagine having your teeth pulled out without an anesthetic. Can you imagine kissing someone with black and rotten teeth?

Try this on your friends and family and see what they think.

Want to learn more? Here, Jason, the Modern Knight, discusses medieval tooth brushing and attitudes to dental care.

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