The Evolution Of Oral Hygiene

By Bryana Allen | Nov 18, 2015

Dental History

Throughout history, humans have always searched for ways to care for their teeth. The records reveal as we grow and evolve, so does our understanding of oral hygiene and disease.

Here’s a timeline of highlights from the evolution of oral hygiene:

5,000-3,000 BCE—Ancient texts show that people believed cavities were caused by worms. This belief persisted for nearly 7,000 years. Egyptian tombs reveal people used the frayed ends of twigs and toothpicks to clean their teeth.

500 BCE—The first recipes for toothpastes are written in China and India. Many included herbs and spices like mint and ginseng.

410 CE—By the fall of their Empire, the Romans had mastered restorative dental care. They used gold to make crowns and wires to fix bridges. Read more about the ways Romans cared for their smiles.

1000 CE—Archeological records show little evidence of oral disease among Vikings. Good hygiene was important to them and they used toothpicks to clean their teeth. However, the lack of cavities is mostly due to their diet which consisted mostly of fruits, vegetables, meat and whole grains. The Vikings ate very little refined grains or sugar.

1530 CE—”The Little Medicinal Book for all Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth” is published. It was the first book entirely devoted to dentistry.

1840-90 CE—Dentistry becomes an official field of medicine when the first dental school, Baltimore College School of Dentistry, opened. Also, “modern” toothpaste was born. It was first sold in glass jars. It wasn’t sold in tubes until 1890.

1944-59 CE—Researchers discover that fluoridated water, at low levels, prevents tooth decay.

1960 CE—Water fluoridation becomes a common public health practice. Today, nearly 75% of the US population on community water sources receive fluoridated water.

Fluoridated water and better oral hygiene routines (think daily brushing and flossing) are the reason many of us can expect to keep our teeth for our entire lives! We’re the first generations of humans to make that claim. Help your smile age gracefully by brushing twice a day, flossing before bed and staying on top of your dental check-ups.

Visit Wellbody Academy’s Germnasium for a hands-on, modern oral health experience.

Experience Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland in our PACCAR IMAX Theater to learn more about evolution.


Anderson, T. Dental Treatment in Medieval England. British Dental Journal 197, 419-425 (2004).
Lanfranco, L and Eggers, S. Caries through Time: An anthropological Overview. Laboratório de Antropologia Biológica (2012).