Medieval England Versus Bad Breath


You’re probably wondering, what does brushing have to do with Ancient Rome? Well, it kind of doesn’t, but it does have to do with an interesting fact about Medieval England. Let’s start at the beginning. You see, back in the day, people understood much less about cavities or gum disease than we do now. Also, they did not brush their teeth (brushes weren’t invented until 1780), and they had no idea why people got cavities. Sounds crazy, right? But even crazier was the fact that in Medieval England, folks believed that bad smells caused disease on their own! It was believed that bad smells — including bad breath — were just as contagious as the plague!


Did you know that oral hygiene was prized in the Middle Ages? Not so much because of its growing importance, but also due how people in that time took care of their teeth. It’s not always a straightforward process (pun intended). You see, even in medieval times they were aware of plaque buildup, bad odor, and other dental problems. So, people tried to find ways to breathe better. They mixed spices into sugar mixtures and chewed them to freshen their breath. In fact, even the famous Middle Age work The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer has a character who does this.


You’ve probably heard that the middle ages had a completely different understanding of what causes bad breath. But you may not know exactly what they thought was causing it!

Toothaches in the Middle Ages

In the middle ages, people believed that worms were the cause of toothaches. This is because they believed that worms were responsible for all diseases and ailments, including toothaches. So, if you had a toothache, you might have been instructed to burn a mutton fat and sea holly seed candle very close to your tooth—and this would supposedly make the “worms” inside the tooth fall out into a basin of water!


Fresh Breath in Modern Times


We’re happy to live in modern times (and know better than to believe in such nonsense). Today, we know that bad breath isn’t caused by worms or other creatures burrowing into our teeth—it’s actually caused by leftover food particles stuck between our teeth after meals. The bacteria in our mouths break down these particles and end up causing bad breath as a result.


The bacteria in our mouths break down these particles, and the end result doesn’t smell good. Our best tip for preventing bad breath? A good daily hygiene routine!


Causes of Chronic Bad Breath

Chronic cases of bad breath (also called halitosis) might not be solved by good daily brushing and flossing habits. Halitosis may be caused by:

  • Chronic conditions. Sometimes, bad breath is linked to conditions that seem unrelated, such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and acid reflux.

  • Medications. A common side-effect of medications is dry mouth. Without saliva to wash away food particles and neutralize acid, the mouth is vulnerable to problems like bad breath.

  • Mouth-breathing. Whether it happens by habit or because breathing through the nose is difficult, mouth-breathing tends to dry out the mouth, leading to the same problems as described above.

  • Mouth, nose, and throat infections. Bad breath can be the result of increased mucous when we have a cold or a sinus infection.

  • Pregnancy. Symptoms such as morning sickness and nausea can cause bad breath because of the extra acid in the mouth. This is also a problem for people struggling with bulimia.

  • Tobacco products. Tobacco in any form leaves smelly chemicals in the mouth and can also dry it out. In addition, it increases the risk of oral cancer and gum disease, which negatively impact breath as well.

  • Tooth decay and gum disease. Poor dental health often goes hand-in-hand with chronic bad breath because cavities and periodontitis are caused by the same bacteria that produces those nasty-smelling chemicals.

Keeping Your Breath Fresh

Even if strict oral hygiene isn’t enough to keep the bad breath completely at bay, it will help to manage it, and treating the underlying cause may be able to eliminate it. If you are a habitual mouth-breather, try breathing through your nose more. Quitting smoking will eliminate a major cause of bad breath. If dry mouth is the problem, chew sugar-free gum and mints to stimulate saliva production, sip water, and use a humidifier to help keep up the moisture.

Finally, get help from the dental guys of Winyah Dental Group!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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