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Archive for the ‘Oral Health’ Category

Ancient Egyptian Lessons Learned Then Forgotten

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

Any visitor to modern Egypt, or viewer of a travelogue on this amazing country is awed by the antiquities visible everywhere. The Sphinx, hundreds of pyramids and mausoleums, temples and statuary are testament to the brilliance of this 4000 year old culture. These relics have survived the ravages of time, weather, wars and invasions.

Almost entirely forgotten, however, is the ancient Egyptian fetish for personal health and cleanliness. We know from written records and paintings that they were very keen to promote health, wellness and hygiene in ways that were amazingly advanced for the time, and would be considered modern today. Unfortunately, after the glory of the pharaoh’s faded, these habits were forgotten for centuries and, particularly in Western Europe, people lived in filth for ages.

An example of ancient Egyptians interest in cleanliness is their oral hygiene regimen. Egypt is an arid, windy, sandy country. Dust was omnipresent and was often blown into their foodstuffs. Grains were ground for flour between stone wheels and bits of the stone would become mixed into the final product. We know from examining mummies that their teeth were ground down almost to the gum line from a lifetime of chewing this gritty diet. The pain must have been unbearable.

Halitosis is most prevalent when tooth and gum disease is present. The Egyptians perfected the art of perfumery. For treatment of halitosis they would chew fragrant herbs and rinse with a concoction of warm water, a drop of perfume and an herb cocktail. They also practiced a form of dentistry, using needles to pierce and bleed abscesses. Priests acted as doctors and dentists.

More than half of all ancient Egyptian babies died before the age of five. Women were very protective of their bodies as soon as they became aware of their imminent pregnancy. We know that they utilized a very clever pregnancy test, thousands of years before the red/blue urine test modern women buy at pharmacies. Wheat or oat grains were collected, and the ancient Egyptian woman would urinate on the seeds. If the seeds sprouted, the woman knew she was pregnant and would adjust her personal regimen to prepare for the precious moment of childbirth.

There are many more examples of practical, but advanced hygienic procedures that were used 4000 years ago to pamper and protect the human body. And yet, a millennium later, virtually none were in wide use in most of the world. What happened?

Climate, demographics, social mores and superstitions are a few of the reasons historians and anthropologist’s offer as evidence for the loss of ancient healthcare techniques. Today, we believe that living in advanced modern societies we will improve and perfect new care techniques and each subsequent generation will live better, healthier lives than previous generations. Unless we learn the lessons of history there is no guarantee that we might not revert to a Dark Age lifestyle.

Currently there is a world economic crisis. If we had studied and learned from past economic calamities much of the pain being suffered by the worlds economy could have been mitigated. The fact is we often ignore or forget the lessons of the past. The bubonic plague of the middle-ages would most assuredly have been mitigated if society had utilized hygienic procedures perfected by the ancient Egyptians and Romans. Manias like Holland’s 17th century tulip-mania, South Africa’s milk culture scheme, Ponzi schemes, and countless modern recessions and the great depression all germinate from the same seeds: greed, fear and a lack of historical perspective.

Societies do forget. Governments do forget. Groups and individuals do forget. The ancient Egyptians gifted the world with many advances in engineering, construction, science, health care and art. These lessons were largely lost in subsequent centuries. Some, such as the mystery of the erection of the pyramids, have never been rediscovered. It behooves us all today to rekindle an interest in history and ancient creativity.

The First Commercially Sold Mouthwash Actually Invented a Malady for the Product to Cure

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

The first commercially successful mouthwash product is still one of the most famous: Listerine. First marketed in the late 19th century as a surgical antiseptic, the product enjoyed modest success. Listerine was created by Dr. Joseph Lawrence and Jordan Lambert and named in honor of Dr. Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgery.

In distilled form, Listerine was sold in the early years of the 20th century as a floor cleaner and gonorrhea treatment. However, it was only in the 1920’s that the product started to sell in great volume, and only because of a clever marketing strategy. The Listerine advertising group invented a faux medical term to describe bad breath. At that time, bad breath was considered the norm, not a malodorous condition to be treated with over the counter medicinal-like products.

The term, “chronic halitosis”, while sounding clinical, was an early example of verbally engineering a malady that could be cured only by using an existing product, in this case Listerine. The Listerine marketing team created halitosis as a way to apply a cure through gargling Listerine. The Company’s early advertising campaign depicted forlorn young lovers put off by the “bad breath” of their partners. Sales soared.

This is a classic case of creating a novel, fresh Unique Selling Proposition for an existing consumer product. Listerine had enjoyed modest success when sold as a surgical antiseptic, floor polish and venereal disease treatment. However, by creating and driving a negative connotation for bad breath, and labeling the new hygiene “chronic halitosis”, a new superstar product was born.

Use of mouthwash in oral hygiene is simply reflexive in modern industrial societies. We do not think twice about finishing our daily personal care ritual by gargling with a rinse. And yet, less than 100 years ago, no one gave oral halitosis a second thought. Like many advances, until the product was marketed to meet the need, the consumer did not know that Listerine was essential.