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:
Poor Houdini: With a hundred celebrity guests to choose from, Houdini had selected Groucho Marx to inspect his teeth!
Just as Listerine ads frightened women into using mouthwash, …
… the discovery that tooth loss was often caused by gum disease, rather than cavities, led to advertisements warning about “pink toothbrush” and pyorrhea.
The good news was that pyorrhea need not cause tooth loss.
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.