Which came first, bad breath or breath fresheners?
SUMMARY: Some people argue that before the modern era's exploding market for halitosis-treating products, the concept of bad breath didn't exist as we know it today. Essentially, such people say, with cleanliness came the notion of dirtiness. If this were so, the history of bad breath-related products would be a relatively short one. But it isn't. The evolution of halitosis treatment stretches back for millennia.
Posted: July 15, 2011
Some people argue that before the modern era's exploding market for halitosis-treating products, the concept of bad breath didn't exist as we know it today. Essentially, such people say, with cleanliness came the notion of dirtiness. If this were so, the history of bad breath-related products would be a relatively short one. But it isn't. The evolution of halitosis treatment stretches back for millennia.
Some of the first mentions of oral odor come from Hippocrates, the Greek physician famed as the so-called Founder of Western Medicine. According to the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, papyrus scrolls dating from 1550 BC bear his words on bad breath.
Apparently, Hippocrates believed that women should try to maintain sweet-smelling breath, and he recommended that they rinse daily with a mixture of aniseed, dill and red wine, the source states.
If you want to envision how delightful such a mouthrinse might taste, imagine combining wine, liquorice and dill in a glass and then swishing it around. While it may have worked for the ancient Greeks, today people with halitosis often reach for a specialty breath freshening rinse, dental floss or a toothbrush first.
What about those handy devices? How long have they been around? According to a review published in the journal Periodontology 2000, the Chinese likely invented the toothbrush right around the time that Christopher Columbus was colonizing the West Indies and mistaking them for Asia.
The study notes, though, that brush-like tools may have been used as early as the year 1000 AD. By comparison, floss appeared very recently. Levi Spear Parmly, an oral health expert in Louisiana, invented it around 1815, the review states. Evidently, it was made from silk.
What then are the oldest known ways of heading off halitosis? The article in Periodontology 2000 lists toothpicks and dentifrices - meaning toothpastes or powders - as the most ancient of tooth-cleaning methods. Toothpicks were found in the tomb of a Mesopotamian king who ruled circa 3000 BC, the study states.
And detifrices? An ancient Egyptian medical text called the Ebers Papyrus contains recipes for toothpastes dating back 6,000 years!
Today, oral health, dental cleaning and halitosis management have each become sciences in their own right. Many experts recommend that individuals with halitosis use specially designed mouth rinses that contain odor-neutralizing compounds. Likewise, the most advanced halitosis-fighting formulas have abandoned the harsh chemicals that can irritate your mouth and lead to cold sores.
Today's bad breath products are the apotheosis of at least 6,000 years of battling bad breath!