Tooth and Paste

by John Mount, Woodford, QLD.

The ancient Greeks and Romans rubbed their teeth with small sticks wrapped in cloth and coated with the burnt and pulverised heads of mice, moles and rabbits, on the assumption that the toothy attributes of these small creatures would literally rub off on to the user. Other popular cleaners of the time were iron rust, pumice stone and the ashes of dogs’ teeth mixed with honey or human urine.

If the above dental ingredients turn you off, consider the effect of some of the later modern dental chemicals:

  • Hexachlorophene, an antibacterial agent so potent that its use or misuse as a disinfectant proved fatal to babies.
  • Cyclamate, an artificial sweetener now linked to cancer.
  • Chloroform, used as a flavour enhancer and now considered by some to be a cancer enhancer.
  • Even the tubes containing the toothpaste once contained a large amount of lead, which probably leached into the toothpaste.

The standard modern toothpaste consists of around 40 percent abrasive chemicals to remove staining, usually calcium phosphate dehydrate; 20 percent glycerine to prevent the paste hardening; 1.5 percent detergent or foaming agent (sodium laural sulphate is often used); one percent sodium carboxymenthylcellulose as a thickener; one percent flavouring such as spearmint or menthol; and the remaining percentage as water. (Many brands nowadays include small percentages of fluorides and other chemicals such as sodium fluorophosphate, sodium fluoride, and strontium acetate.)

As a child I recall older people often brushing their teeth with common table salt. This not only removed stains but the salt acted as an antibacterial agent or oral antiseptic.

Other early teeth cleaners used were:

  • A mixture of charcoal (often scraped off burnt toast) and honey.
  • Salt and honey.
  • A little bicarbonate of soda mixed with molasses, honey, cream or yoghurt.
  • Bicarbonate of soda mixed with salt and a little rainwater.
  • Dentree toothpowder, made by pickling the end of an eggplant that is nearest the stem for about 10 to 12 months in a
    salt marginally on adult teeth.
  • Toothache relief can be obtained by using balm (Melissa officinalie), or oil of cloves.

Conditioners ‘Kill lice’

FORGET the expensive and harsh chemicals and shampoos – researchers have found the best treatment for head lice is white conditioner used on dry hair with a fine-tooth comb.

A two year study by Queensland Health researchers found chemicals were not the best way to rid children of head lice.

The tiny insects, which feed on the scalp, are only transferred by head to head contact and cannot be caught by sharing hats.

Queensland Health Minister Wendy Edmond said researchers had found head lice were resistant to some chemicals, but using an undiluted thick, white conditioner on dry hair smothered and killed the tiny black insects and their eggs, which could then be combed out.

Brushes and combs should be cleaned thoroughly in very hot water, she said.

Water is a great pain killer

Next time you have a headache, leave the painkillers in the packet and just drink a glass of water.

Regularly sipping water can ease the severity of headaches and migraines, reducing the need for tablets.

Scientists found drinking about seven glasses a day was enough to ease pain and improve the quality of life in patients who regularly suffered headaches.

Researchers from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands noticed in 2005 that a patient told to drink more for a bladder problem saw his migraines get better.

Lead researcher Dr Mark Spigt and his team recruited more than 100 frequent headache sufferers and instructed them on how to ease their discomfort, including reducing stress, improving sleep and avoiding caffeine. But half the patients were also told to drink 1.5 litres of water a day for three months, on top of their normal liquid intake. At the end of the study, patients filled out a questionnaire called the Migraine Specific Quality of Life index to say how they felt. The results, published in journal Family Practice, showed those drinking extra water scored far higher on the questionnaire.