WTF Fun Fact 13040 – The Oldest Toothpaste

We tend to think of ancient people as having horrible tooth decay. In fact, it’s often referred to went talking about their shorter lifespans. But it turns out that toothpaste (and teeth cleaning generally) is an ancient concept. The oldest toothpaste comes from Egypt.

Ancient toothpaste

Dental hygiene has always been of relative importance. People who lived thousands of years ago may not have had twice-yearly dental cleanings, but they did have bristled toothbrushes and toothpaste.

According to Open Culture (cited below): “not only did ancient people use toothbrushes, but it is believed that ‘Egyptians… started using a paste to clean their teeth around 5000 BC,’ even before toothbrushes were invented.”

The world’s oldest toothpaste recipe

According to The Telegraph, in 2003, the oldest toothpaste formula (so far) was found at a Viennese museum. It dates from the 4th century AD. The Egyptian papyrus (which is written in Greek) “describes a ‘powder for white and perfect teeth’ that, when mixed with saliva, makes a ‘clean tooth paste.'”

It requires:
1 drachma of rock salt (about one-hundredth of an ounce)
2 drachmas of mint
1 drachma of dried iris flower
20 grains of pepper

The ingredients are to be crushed and mixed together.

Dental hygiene surprises

Rock salt, mint, and pepper are probably not a recipe for the most pleasant experience for your gums, but it would be refreshing.

Once we get into the middle ages, we start to see things like charms and amulets used for dental health – so at least ancient Egyptian toothpaste would remove some germs.

Dental health care is also described in Gilbertus Anglicus’ 13th-century Compendium of Medicine. It advises rubbing teeth with a cloth to remove “corrupt matter.”

It’s pretty clear that people have long understood the importance of dental hygiene for health.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Try the Oldest Known Recipe For Toothpaste: From Ancient Egypt, Circa the 4th Century BC” — Open Culture

WTF Fun Fact 12991 – Squirrel Front Teeth Never Stop Growing

Squirrel front teeth never stop growing. Once their teeth grow in, the front four can grow up to five inches a year to keep up with all that gnawing they do on nuts and seeds.

The ever-growing teeth of squirrels

Rodents, including squirrels, have elodents – aka teeth that don’t develop roots and continue to grow long. These teeth can also appear dark yellow or orange because of the extremely thick enamel that covers them.

To be more precise, squirrel incisors have an enamel coating that starts below the gumline. This is what grows constantly up and over the teeth. This enables squirrels to wear down their incisors for their whole lives without losing their teeth.

Squirrels also have molars and premolars with roots, similar to human teeth.

If a squirrel does not have the right diet, it’s teeth will grow too large for its mouth and it can die from starvation. That’s why it’s never a good idea to feed squirrels other types of food.

The development of squirrel teeth

Baby squirrels are born without teeth, and their first teeth don’t erupt until they’re a few weeks old.

Adult squirrels develop 22 teeth (except the Eastern gray squirrel, which has 24) – 4 incisors, 4 premolars, and 12 molars.

The long incisors at the front of their mouths are used for gnawing at food, shredding material to make their nests, and for self-defense. While squirrels are not aggressive creatures, they can bite humans if they feel threatened (and they do carry disease).

In some unfortunate cases, baby squirrels may fall out of trees (this happens because their heads are quite large compared to their bodies). If they fall and break an incisor, it can grow back crooked. When this happens, the teeth rub up against each other and grow into one another. This can lead to life-threatening issues.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Teeth issues in squirrels” — Squirrel Refuge

WTF Fun Fact 12807 – Snails Have Teeth

Have you ever wondered how a snail eats? We sure haven’t! But it turns out that snails have teeth laid out along their tongues – thousands of them, in fact.

Snail “teeth”

Snails have teeth, but they’re nothing like human teeth. First, the rows of minuscule teeth are laid out on their tongues. (We never really thought about whether snails had tongues either, to be honest).

According to Dr, Gordon Port, senior lecturer at Newcastle University: “A snail will use its toothy tongue ­– called the radula – almost like a file, scraping off the softer parts of their food when eating. Their teeth normally get worn down by this action, so they’re replaced regularly.”

A “toothy tongue”

BBC Science Focus (cited below) describes some of the variations on these “toothy tongues:”

“There are also some (downright terrifying) radula variations. Species such as cone snails – that are mainly found in warm and tropical waters – have a venomous radula that is used to paralyse prey before eating.

In case you’re wondering, slugs also have a radula, which similarly are fitted with thousands of tiny teeth. Some predatory slugs, such as the Welsh ghost slug, have radulae with razor-sharp teeth – each about half a millimetre long – that are used to kill and eat earthworms.

Many squids also have a radula inside their mouth. As its throat passes directly through the brain, a squid’s toothy tongue is needed to break down food into tiny pieces. Because, let’s face it, a piece of crab knocking against your brain is bound to ruin supper.”

What do snails eat?

Snails eat at night for the most part – which we’re grateful for, since they sound like pretty messy eaters.

And Port told BBC that they’ll eat just about any organic matter, like young plants. “And some species, such as Moon snails, are even known to eat each other. But, mostly, any decomposing matter will do.”

As long as snails aren’t chewing your foliage, they can be good for gardens since they eat decomposing matter and then serve as food for other animals.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Do snails have teeth?” — BBC Science Focus