Pyorrhea and Toothpaste Ads

From an ad for Forhan’s toothpaste, September 1931.

Afraid to smile because of Pyorrhea!

“Four out of five” would be victims of Pyorrhea, warned Forhan’s toothpaste ads. This one is from 1925.

I’m still reading magazines from the 1920s and 1930s. Every time I see a toothpaste ad about Pyorrhea, I think of a story  Ruth Gordon told. She attended a charity gala where the Great Houdini was entertaining the guests. Houdini used to do a magic act where he would “catch a bullet in his teeth.” Before performing the stunt, he would always ask for a volunteer from the audience to come up and look in his mouth, to prove the bullet wasn’t concealed there.
Performing at the charity ball,  Houdini called for a volunteer. A man came up from the audience. When Houdini opened his mouth and asked, “What do you see?” the man said:
“Py-o-rrhea!”
Poor Houdini: With a hundred celebrity guests to choose from, Houdini had selected Groucho Marx to inspect his teeth!

Forham’s ad, warning about pyorrhea. April 1927.

Forhan’s’s toothpaste ad, May 1928.

Just as Listerine ads frightened women into using mouthwash, …

An example of the famous Listerine ad campaign blaming”Halitosis” for unpopularity. This one is from June 1930.

… the discovery that tooth loss was often caused by gum disease, rather than cavities, led to advertisements warning about “pink toothbrush” and pyorrhea.

Forhan’s ad, May 1928.

Top of Forhan’s’s ad, March 1935.

“Pyorrhea is a relentless foe. It destroys clean, healthy-looking teeth. It undermines the gums. It is responsible for more than half the losses of adult teeth in this country.”

Two women wait to see the dentist. 1928 ad.

The good news was that pyorrhea need not cause tooth loss.

Tooth powder ad, April 1925. (My uncle Mel still preferred tooth powder in a can to toothpaste in a tube in the 1950s.)

Forhan’s toothpaste in a tube, May 1928.

A woman in a striking cloche hat gets dental advice in this Forhan’s ad, December 1926.

Forhan’s toothpaste ad, March 1927.

Brush, floss, see your dentist twice a year, and keep smiling!

P.S. I once accidentally ruined a dinner party game: The hostess asked each guest to choose a time period when they would have liked to live, and to say why. I was No. 3, and blurted out the truth: “I’m 65 years old and I still have all my own teeth; I really love hot running water and flush toilets, so I am happy to be alive now!” Loving to read Jane Austen doesn’t mean I want to live like her. (Yes, I do have personal experience with outhouses and no electricity….) And there’s a good reason (in addition to the length of exposure time) why women are usually not smiling in 19th century photos.

 

7 Comments

Filed under 1920s-1930s, Hairstyles, Hats and Millinery, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

7 responses to “Pyorrhea and Toothpaste Ads

  1. Decided to wait until I’d finished dinner to read this one. 😉 Good golly! It’s sobering to realize how many decades advertisers have been targeting women, deliberately trying to frighten them into buying stuff. The sad thing is it hasn’t stopped.

  2. anna

    “Halitosis” was still a thing in the Listerine TV ads of the 1960s. Two of my siblings and my mother got dentures in the 1950s because of pyorrhea. I was born in 1962, and growing up my mother was very shy of taking me to the dentist; I often wonder if they had been infected through poorly cleaned dental instruments.

  3. zoedog66

    Not sure whether I should feel sorry for them or laugh at the transparency of the ads.

  4. Val

    I love the groucho marx comment and am rather sad about the ads… though they give a good sense of the times they were used.

  5. anna

    Actually though, by the time of the 1960s commercials I mentioned, it was usually two women talking about a man with halitosis, not a woman. One of the women would be complaining about her boss, or her boyfriend’s father, etc. and it was understood that he had it because he smoked or ate spicy food or whatever and was a sketchy brusher.

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