Pearly Whites

When I was younger I would eat anything. I’m sure many of you were the same. If it came near my mouth I would eat it. On more than one occasion I would throw something into my piehole only to find it was extremely hard and end up in pain. Rather than learning a lesson from these incidents I vowed that one day I would have metal teeth and I would never encounter this problem again. (I also liked the idea that rather than using toothpaste you could clean your teeth with WD40). As I grew older the thought of looking like a Bond villain turned me completely against the idea.

I tell you this because my featured object today is a little payment booklet from a dentist on Preston New Road, Blackburn from the 1910’s.

Teeth Payment Book

The patient, Mrs Robinson, had some High Class Artificial Teeth fitted. Nothing uunusual about that except for the fact they cost £4.13.0 and it took her over 4 years to pay for them in installments. Considering this was done during the Great War, a huge influenza outbreak, a worldwide economic depression and when the average life expectancy was 55, it is a serious investment.

Is it really that much of a surprise though? Vanity has existed in almost every historical era, why should this one be different? In fact, some of the most important beauty products found in a womans handbag originated from this decade, including mascara. The first touch up powders were also introduced and Max Factor and Maybelline released their first products. Not all beauty treatments were succesful however. Women had started to tattoo their lips to remove the need for lipstick. Unsurprisingly, this fad didn’t last long.

Anyway, the point of this blog was teeth. Throughout history a range of materials had been used to make false teeth including ivory, porcelain, mother of pearl and even donated human teeth. Which got me thinking, maybe a mouthful of metal gnashers isn’t such a bad idea after all.


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Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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