When you envision a pirate, who do you think of? For many people, the fictional character Captain Jack Sparrow is the first and only pirate that comes to mind. Actor Johnny Depp went all out portraying the way pirates lived, including gold implants and dirty teeth. But was this how pirate’s teeth really used to look?
The Golden Age of Piracy
Pirates have existed since ancient times, but the Golden Age of Piracy occurred during the 17th century and early in the 18th century. During this time, pirates traveled across the sea looting ships and searching for treasure. For many years pirates exposed and threatened trading routes and stole ships filled with valuable goods. Although it is a myth that pirates would have their enemies walk the plank, they were notorious for throwing their victims overboard. Today pirates are somewhat romanticized, but that was not the case back when pirates were patrolling the ocean.
Apart from Captain Jack Sparrow, there are a couple of other famous pirates that traveled the sea. Here are a few of them:
- Sir Francis Drake: Also known by Queen Elizabeth I as “my pirate”, Drake was sent by England to attack Spanish shipping. He also was the first English captain to sail around the world. Drake became a hero when he returned to England after raiding Spanish vessels filled with treasure.
- Henry Morgan: One of the most famous pirates of all time, Morgan is known for his brutal raids. Morgan’s most infamous invasion occurred in Cuba where he locked an entire village inside a church and went on to raid the whole town.
- Blackbeard: Born Edward Teach, Blackbeard is famous for scaring his enemies by coiling smoking fuses into his long, braided facial hair. He also captured many ships and raided Charleston, South Carolina. The movie Pirates of the Caribbean is loosely based on his adventures.
These pirates became famous from their travels across the ocean, but were any of them famous for their oral health?
How pirates took care of their teeth
During the Golden Age of Piracy, there was no such thing as a toothbrush, thus pirates ran into extreme dental problems. If pirates cleaned their teeth, which was not common, they did so by chewing on a stick. The wooden chew stick dates back to the 18th century. Because pirates spent most of their time out in the middle of the ocean, chew sticks were hard to come by. Since there was no such thing as a dental professional, a toothbrush, or any form of dental treatment, pirates’ teeth were disgusting. When a Pirate would get a cavity, they wouldn’t know until it hurt, and by then they would let the natural decay of the tooth take over.
Pirate’s mouths weren’t the only part about them in bad shape, their hygiene was as repulsive. Pirates had a limited supply of fresh water, so they would bathe in the ocean. Taking a dip in the ocean doesn’t sound all that bad, but they would often time use whale blubber as soap. Not only were pirates walking around smelling like whale blubber, but they also ran into many diseases. Modern medicine wasn’t around yet, so it was common for pirates to get and spread diseases that include syphilis, measles, and smallpox. Although pirates would spend time cleaning the ship, there was only so much they could do to take care of themselves.
Pirate teeth today
If pirates were around today, they would have much better dental hygiene. Here are just a few modern dental tools that would improve their smiles:
- Dental Professionals
- Routine dental checkups
- Preventive care
- Restorative care
- Cosmetic options
All these dental care resources weren’t around when the pirates roamed the seas. You can only imagine what was going on in the mouths of everyone on board the ship.
Luckily for people today, the field of dentistry has come a long way compared to the time of the pirates. In the time of pirates, signs of good oral health were that you could chew your food and your mouth was not a hindrance on looting ships and searching for treasure. Today, we have dental professionals that provide preventive care and restorative care options. These weren’t even comprehendible during the time of the pirates.
As you can see, pirates didn’t take care of their teeth, but they also didn’t have much of a choice. Dental care has come a long way since the Golden Age of Piracy, and we can attribute that to the creation and advancement of modern dental health care.
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