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​Shakespearean Dentistry



"I will fetch you a toothpicker now from the furthest inch of Asia"

Much Ado About Nothing Act II, Scene 1

"He seems to be more noble in being fantastical; A great man, I’ll warrant; I know by the picking on’s teeth"

The Winter's Tale Act IV, Scene 4

The first quotation implies that toothpicks were imported into Britain. Certainly the royal family had theirs imported as they show up in import lists alongside ear picks.

Toothpicks probably became a fashionable item amongst the nobility and were just as much about showing off their wealth as keeping their teeth clean.

In 1570 Elizabeth I received a gift of six gold toothpicks whilst King James IV of Scotland had two gold toothpicks which he wore on a chain around his neck. His son, James V, even ordered a special silver case for his toothpicks.

Poor Tudors must have just found a sliver of wood to use as a toothpick or even, according to an etiquette book of 1577, their knife or finger!

Try a book on toothpicks

​Dentistry: from ancient to modern

A potted history of dentistry, from the practices of ancient times to the modern sophisticated methods we have today.

roman forceps

Ancient dentistry
Did you know that the Roman's were quite partial to cleaning their teeth?

image of barbers ancient dentistry

Barber-surgeons and toothdrawers​
In the 1400s, if you were in dental pain, you'd probably have your teeth pulled out by a barber

operator-for-teeth.jpgOperators for the teeth
The 17th century saw the emergence of a new practitioner known as the 'operator for the teeth'
The first 'dentists'
The term 'dentist' first appeared in the 18th century. Dentures were invented and the infamous 'waterloo teeth' were used to improve living peoples' smiles.

Development of the profession
In the 1870s, leading dentists including Sir John Tomes and Sir Edwin Saunders formed the Dental Reform Committee.


Teaching us to clean our teeth
In the late 19th century a more organised approach to dental health education developed

dentist-early-nhs.jpgDentistry for all​
The 20th century saw an explosion of new materials, techniques and technology along with a better understanding of dental disease and its prevention