White Knight, White Teeth: Medieval Dentistry

Did you know that dentistry, unlike some other fields of medicine and sciences, is at least 5000 years old?  Indeed, dental history spans countless ages, eras, and generations. The art and practice of caring for one’s teeth has been tweaked, advanced, and perfected throughout the centuries by bright and talented dentists, such as Pierre Fauchard. Even today, modern dentistry continues to progress through technological innovations and new medical discoveries.

Closely examining certain areas of history can reveal some surprising facts about both dentistry and the lifestyle of people who lived in those periods. When you hear “medieval dentistry”, you might imagine peasants (and maybe even nobility) with rotted, blackened teeth. After all, the people living in the Middle Ages did not have access to toothpaste, toothbrushes, or many other advanced dental tools available to us today. It only makes sense that they had unhealthy teeth, right? Wrong.

As it turns out, the medieval dentistry era saw many people with teeth in shades similar to the bright armor of famous white knights!


Societal Influence

White teeth (and pleasant breath) were a desirable trait at all levels of medieval society, from the lowest peasant to the highest lord. As many of us know, societal and peer pressure is a powerful force of influence and motivation, and this was certainly the case in medieval times regarding dental health. Not only do white teeth represent beauty in modern society, white teeth also represented beauty thousands of years ago!

Medieval Diet

While society definitely had an influence on dental health, perhaps the largest factor of white teeth in the Middle Ages was the diet. Why? Most people could not afford sugar! According to O’Neill’s article, sugar was an exotic, expensive ingredient, and those who could afford it used it sparingly. Even natural sugars, such as those found in fruits and honey, were not eaten nearly as often as they are today. Instead, the medieval diet was full of healthy foods, such as dairy and vegetables, all of which are good for teeth. Consider this with the lack of teeth-decaying sugar in their diet, and it comes as no surprise that many people in the Middle Ages had white teeth.

Dental Hygiene

In addition to societal influence and healthy diets, many people also practiced dental hygiene. Of course, they didn’t run to the local store and purchase a toothbrush and toothpaste. Instead, they invented their own methods, such as wiping their teeth and gums with a clean cloth. People with more money could afford powders and pastes to use while cleaning, such as sage ground with salt crystals. Mouthwashes were available as well, often in the form of vinegar with herbs or spices added. Many people treated halitosis by chewing certain substances, such as parsley leaves.


Clearly, medieval dentistry was a time where the pearly whites of many were as dazzling as a famous white knight. The good news is that you can have that same look with the help of Greenspoint Dental. We offer teeth-whitening services, in addition to various cleaning and dental procedures. To get started, contact a dentist in Houston today!