A.D. 1: The Romans used to buy bottled Portuguese urine to purge bacteria from the mouth. This practice was so popular that Nero had to place a tax on it. The thought process behind this revolves around the presence of ammonia in urine which aided in disinfection and could whiten teeth. In fact, urine remained one of the most effective ingredients in mouthwashes until the 18th century.
A.D. 23: As unhygienic as it sounds, people used to swish tortoise blood around in their mouth at least three times a year to prevent toothaches. Less extreme measures included drinking goat’s milk to maintain good breath or rinsing with white wine.
A.D. 40 – 90: Greek surgeon and physician, Pedanius Dioscorides, suggested the mixture of the juice and leaves of olives, milk, gum myrrh, pomegranate, vinegar and wine could help fight bad breath.
12th Century: German philosopher and mystic, Saint Hildegard von Bingen, suggests that swishing pure, cold water around in the mouth can help remove tarter and plaque.
16th Century: Medieval oral hygiene practices centered around a mint and vinegar rinsing solution was believed to rid the mouth of bad breath and germs.
19th Century: Mouthwashes as we know them today, developed in the late 1800s. Instead of rinses containing urine, alcohol was added to help fight germs and bacteria while stabilizing the formula. One of the most popular mouthwashes on the market today for its germ-killing qualities, Listerine was invented originally as an antiseptic for surgical procedures and to clean floors.
Today: Sodium hexametephosphate and hydrogen peroxide are found in more abundant quantities in mouthwashes to help lift and prevent future stains on the surfaces of teeth and more companies are coming out with solutions that won’t irate sensitive mouths.
With the solutions of mouthwashes constantly evolving to help cater to treating more oral issues, what do you think we’ll see next?