Beauty Secrets of the Regency Lady – The Smile that Dazzles

Ever daydream about time traveling to Regency England, marrying some handsome rake, and moving into a picturesque country manor complete with a staff of servants at your beck and call? If so, I would not advise that you read this post for it will shatter your romantic fantasy. Heaven forbid you got a tooth ache in your Regency paradise.

I don’t think I need to traumatize any more of my fictional historical heroes with a terrible war experience or neglected childhood. From now on, I’ll just give them two or three bad teeth that a dentist must extract and then numb the exposed nerves with a red hot wire. That should cause enough mental angst for a lifetime.

I’ve included pretty French fashion prints from Fashion in Paris : the various phases of feminine taste and aesthetics from 1797 to 1897, by Octave Uzanne to alleviate the pain of reading this post.

The following is excerpted from The Art Of Beauty; or, The Best Methods of Improving and Preserving the Shape, Carriage, and Complexion, by Knight and Lacy, 1825

Beauty Of The Teeth

The beauty of the teeth particularly consists in their position, their arrangement, and their regularity. These are but little under the dominion of art, though we can do much with respect to their whiteness and brilliancy. For this purpose, nothing is more important than bathing them every day with pure water which is not too cold, or with salt water; but hot should never be used. This is the simplest thing we can recommend; but it may be necessary to be a little more explicit with regard to the best

Method Of Cleaning The Teeth

More teeth are destroyed by ignorant and improper cleaning, than by all the other causes of toothache, tartar, and rotting, put together. All the authorities insist upon cleanliness being the best preservative; but you will find little said about the evils of tooth-picks, tooth-brushes, and dentifrices, which ruin the teeth of almost everybody who uses them. Savages are well known to have almost uniformly fine teeth; and it is equally well known, that they have no absurd tooth-apparatus for their toilette. Any kind of metal, such as a silver toothpick, is certain to break or rub off the enamel, and the usual tooth-brushes and dentifrices act upon this very much like a file.  Now, if you once break or injure the smallest point of the enamel of a tooth, it is certain to decay, and ultimately to rot down to the gum. A blunt quill is a much better tooth-pick than either a silver or a gold one, though even a quill must be used sparingly, otherwise it will, also, rub off the enamel. The best thing we have heard for cleaning the teeth, next to rinsing the mouth well and frequently with warm, not cold, water, is the following


Excellent Tooth-Brush

Before giving the genuine receipt for making this, we warn our readers that there are several spurious ones in print, the inferiority of which will at once appear from comparison. Procure two or three dozen of the fresh roots of marsh-mallows, and dry them carefully in the shade, so that they may not shrivel. They must be chosen about as thick as a cane, and cut to five or six inches long, then with a mallet bruise the ends of them very gently, for about half an inch down, in order to form a brush. Then take two ounces of dragon’s blood, four ounces of highly-rectified spirits, and half an ounce of fresh conserve of roses, and put them in a glazed pipkin or pan, to dissolve over a gentle fire. When dissolved, put in your prepared mallow roots, stirring them to make them, take the dye equally. Continue this till no moisture remains in the vessel, when the roots will be hard, dry, and fit for use. If you take care of them, they will last you for a considerable time. When you use this tooth-brush, it may be dipped in the following

Wash For The Teeth And Gums.

Take the juice of half a lemon, a spoonful of very rough claret or port wine, ten grains of sulphate of quinine, a few drops of Eau de Cologne, or oil of bergamot; Mix, and keep in a well-stopped phial for use.

Means Of Relieving Tooth-Ache.

“What would you recommend for the toothache?” is a question which we often hear, though, we believe, it seldom enters into the thoughts of the questioners to consider what may be the cause of a particular fit of tooth-ache, or that the remedy must depend upon knowing the cause. To expect a remedy, therefore, which will cure tooth-aches of all varieties, is almost the same as to expect a universal remedy for all diseases; but many people are foolish enough to dream of such a remedy for tooth-ache, and quacks take good advantage of the absurdity. The various causes which may bring on toothache, are as endless as the diseases of the body, most of which may by sympathy affect the teeth; but a few are more common than others, and therefore require notice. Among these, the first is cold, which may produce violent tooth-ache, without any previous decay of the teeth; and rheumatism or gout may, in the same way, make an attack upon the jaw, and produce great pain and swelling, as occurs in the joints. Nervous pains, also, often settle here, from sympathy with some other disordered organ, such as the stomach, and, of course, when it is deranged the nervous tooth-ache comes on. Tooth-ache may, also, be caused by inflammation of the gums or sockets of the teeth; or from incrustations of tartar, or enlargement or tumours of the bones, called by surgeons exostosis. In all these cases, it is plain that extraction of the tooth will seldom do any good, and may do harm.

The most common cause of tooth-ache, however, is a decayed or hollow tooth, laying bare the nerve to the influence of the air, or the particles of food or drink which may get into the hollow. Some of the old conjurors pretended that they possessed secrets for loosening hollow teeth, and extracting them without pain; an old gossiping person, who calls himself a physician, in a late number of the New Monthly Magazine, was fool enough to try helleboraster, milk thistle, henbane, and ashes of earth worms for this purpose! We need not say he was disappointed.

The cause of decay in the teeth is still unknown, though it is conjectured that it may arise from taking too hot or too cold food and drink, or from the undue use of acids. Sugar and sweet things were, at one time, denounced as the common cause of bad teeth and tooth-ache, but this is now believed to be a vulgar error. Those who are in the habit of using elixir of vitriol, will, if they are not careful to drink it through a quill, or a glass tube, soon find their teeth much injured. Hollow teeth are, likewise, often caused by dentifrices and tooth-powders.

When tooth-ache evidently arises from a decayed or hollow tooth, and the patient is unwilling to have it extracted, the first thing to be done is to ease the excruciating pain, which, as Burns says, bears the bell of all misery and rankest plagues. One of the most powerful remedies for this, is exciting some strong emotion of the mind, such as terror, hope, wonder, and the like, the great engines, by the way, used by Prince Hohenlohe, Mr. Baldwin, and other miracle-workers. If you have faith in the remedy, the cure is certain. The notorious Valentine Greatrakes cured the tooth-ache by simply stroking the cheek; others, by blowing upon the patient; others, by a magnet held to the tooth; and any body, who can obtain belief and confidence, may cure it by saying, “Begone,” or any other authoritative word.

When a patient is not sufficiently credulous to be cured by this sort of quackery, recourse may be had to opiates. A bit of opium, or some cotton-wool soaked in laudanum, may, with this view, be plugged into the hollow of the tooth. Camphor, dissolved in oil of turpentine, is also a favourite remedy, in the form of the following

Lotion For Tooth-Ache

Put two drachms of camphor

into an ounce of the oil of turpentine,

and let it dissolve; when it will be fit for use.

Cajeput oil is another valuable remedy for allaying the pain, when put into the hollow of the tooth. The most effectual, however, of all the remedies for destroying the sensibility of the nerve, is the putting of a red hot wire into the hollow, which will destroy the nerve, and prevent the return of the pain

Pain in any other part of the body eases toothache, chiefly, as it should seem, by affecting the mind, and distracting or withdrawing attention. A box on the ear, a blow on the shin, or on the elbow, has, in this way, often given immediate relief. It is in this way, that any thing which smarts the mouth relieves the pain, such as hot water, tobacco smoke, or brandy, held in the mouth, or, what is still better, the

Mucilage For Tooth-Ache.

Take one drachm of the powdered leaves of pyrethrum, and a sufficient quantity of gum arabic mucilage: Make a mass, divide it into twelve portions, and take one into the mouth, and let it lie till dissolved, as occasion requires.

If an external application is preferred, the following may be rubbed on the outside of the jaw.

Liniment For Tooth-Ache.

Take an ounce of spirit of camphor; three drachms of liquid ammonia; ten drops of essential oil of bergamot: Mix them in a phial for use.

A blister placed behind the ear, or burning the lap of the ear with a cloth dipped in boiling water, will often remove the pain entirely. The return of the pain, when the nerve is not destroyed, is best prevented by stopping the hollow of the teeth with melted sealing-wax, or with some metal, such as lead or gold. This, however, is best done by a dentist. It has lately been proposed, and is worth trial, to fill the hollow with some of the cements used by stone masons, which harden under water. The cement could be put into the hollow in the form of a soft paste, and no water will ever dissolve it.

Excerpt from “La Belle Assemblée,”  Volume 18, 1818

A Practical Guide to the Management of the Teeth. By L. S. Parmly.

The finest index to a beautiful person is a good set of teeth; the greatest and most important auxiliary to beauty, indicating purity of breath, while good teeth aid powerfully the form of a lovely face. The care of them is of the highest moment, both as comforts and agremens.

The former part of this work is particularly useful to dentists, and highly deserving of their study; we shall merely give the following extracts from that part which treats of the individual care requisite to be observed by every one of their teeth.

Management of  the Teeth.

The first and most important object, is cleanliness of the mouth, which is the only preventive of disease. Of the various causes of diseases of the teeth and alveolar processes, we have found that the greater part as enumerated by writers, are merely theoretical, and are built on no solid facts. The only true cause of all the diseases to which they are liable, is the contact of the accumulation, and the action of that matter upon them, which forms the relics of our food and beverage, and which operate by undergoing the putrefactive process, as a deleterious poison, or corroding agent to their structure.

“Where the truth are kept clean and free from such matter, no disease will ever arise. Their structure will equally land against the summer’s heat and winter’s cold; against the changes of climate, the variations of diet, and even the diseases to which the other parts of the system may be constitutionally subject.

“This being the case, the means of prevention are clear and simple; namely, to avoid the accumulation of matter which injures their substance; and it is in the mode of cleaning them, that the whole secret of avoiding diseases consist.”

“ The means commonly resorted to are the use of the brush, joined with the friction of toothpowder; but, that both brushes and dentifrices as they are at present used, however ingeniously contrived or often employed, are insufficient for the purposes of effectual cleansing, is obvious from this circumstance, that the teeth and gums are still left in a diseased state. Tooth-powders, being generally composed of insoluble substances and acid ingredients, are evidently hurtful, both by their mechanical and chemical agency.

“The brushes and powders are generally applied to the outside only of the teeth; and to shew the injury of these applications, we shall make some observations on their composition and nature. The sulphuric acid, or oil of vitriol, from its peculiar and well known property, of giving a beautiful white appearance to the teeth, forms a principal ingredient in all those ruinous compositions sold under the title of tooth-powders, tinctures, or pastes. In tinctures and lotions, it is combined with some spiritous or watery infusion, of an aromatic nature, variously coloured and scented, according to the taste of the composer. In the paste it is united with some gritty powder, to which a light vegetable matter is added, when the whole is made of a proper consistence with honey or other glutinous substance. The powders, also, not admitting the acid in its natural form, hare corrosive salts substituted, such as cream of tartar, alum, &c. united with powder, which often consists of brick-dust, blended with some other ingredient, to colour and conceal it. But, besides these compositions, which are expressly sold for the purpose, many are in the habit of using substances at their own option for cleaning the teeth, without having recourse to these advertised specifics. Of this kind soot is one; to which I see no other objection than that it is a dirty, disagreeable, and indelicate substance. Its use has, perhaps, arisen from the observation, that chimney sweepers have white teeth. This is generally more in appearance than in reality: when examined, it is found to be occasioned by the contrast of the face with the natural colour of the teeth. Another substance in much greater use of late years, for the purpose of cleaning teeth, is charcoal pulverized; hut highly as it is celebrated for its antiseptic qualities, it is very improper us a dentifrice; for, however fine may be the powder to which it is reduced, everv chemist knows that the substance continues perfectly insoluble. The finer indeed it is pulverized, the easier is the admission it finds between the teeth and gums, where its insinuation, like every other extraneous matter, is a perpetual source of irritation and disease; and its constant friction may injure the health and beauty of the gums; its effect also, as a purifier of the breath, is very transient. Dentifrices similar to charcoal are formed by the burning of bread, leather, betel nut, peruviun bark, fee; in their effects, however, they all differ little from common charcoal: gunpowder and iron rust is anothcr composition in use, but it owes its quality entirely to the charcoal, as the nitre it contains is in too small quantity to be of any ause. Prepared alum is another substance used for the same purpose; but, being a combination of sulphuric acid and clay, when it comes in contact with the teeth, it undergoes a decomposition, and they are consequently exposed to the action of the acid. The same injury arises from the use of cream of tartar, which, though it whitens the teeth, acts powerfully on the enamel.”

La Belle Assemblée, volume 3, 1807

Pernicious Effects Of Tooth-Picks.

“It is a common practice with most people after meals to make use of a tooth-pick, to remove whatever may be lodged between the teeth. This practice, however, is highly to be reprobated: the constant use of a tooth-pick cannot fail to make improper openings between the teeth; and when once that part of the gum which forms the arch is removed from their interstices, a small hollow is made for the reception of accumulating matter, which, if neglected to be removed, will, from its immediate action on the bone, rapidly excavate a tooth, and produce early pain, that would never have existed but for the use of so improper an instrument.”

Interesting Account Of The Care The Bramins Take Of Their Teeth.

“In the East Indies, particularly in Hindustan, the care of the teeth among the Bramins is made a part of their religious rites. As soon as they rise in the morning their teeth are rubbed for an hour with a twig of the fig-tree. During this operation their prayers are fervently addressed to the sun, invoking the blessing of heaven on themselves and families. This practice, it is presumed, is coeval with their religion and government; and certainly nothing can shew their high regard for cleanliness, and particularly for the purity and beauty of the mouth, than by making it both a law and religious duty.”

Importance Of Attending To The Teeth Of Children.

“In every family it should be a rule to have the teeth of children frequently inspected by a dentist; but there is an unfortunate prejudice entertained by parents, that his operations tend to injure the teeth. On this account the proper time is often neglected, which occasions deformity and disfiguration of the countenance for life. In many public seminaries this practice has been laudably followed. It will always prevent much future pain and regret; and children, when they attain the age of reason and reflection, will be more grateful for this attention than for those accomplishments or indulgences which have no connexion with health and comfort. The first traces of disease in the teeth are always unknown to the patient. Caries, in particular, is so insidious in its attack, that its existence often requires the most minute inspection of the dentist’s eye to detect.

From The Toilette of health, beauty, and fashion: including the comforts of dress, and the decoration of the neck with directions for the use of most safe and salutary cosmetics and a variety of select recipes for the dressing room of both sexes, 1832.

The following precautions are necessary to preserve the teeth.

1. Cold applications are injurious to the teeth.

2. Too hot aliments are likewise hurtful. It has been observed, that great tea-drinkers commonly have yellow teeth.

3. Cutting thread or silk with the teeth is a bad habit, which wears the enamel, loosens them, sometimes breaks pieces off, and in time spoils their form. The shortness of the incisor teeth in some females is a mark of this bad habit.

4. Avoid cracking nuts or walnuts, or biting hard substances of any kind with the teeth. If you do not break them always by such unnatural violence, you at least loosen them, and painful tooth-aches are not unfrequently the consequences.

5. Dangerous diversions, such as carrying or lifting weights with the teeth, are very destructive both of teeth and gums.

6. In masticating food both jaws ought to be equally used. Where one side is only put in action, the teeth on the inactive side are more liable to accumulate tartar, and to decay ; they are also less firm in their sockets, and are sometimes subject, especially the grinders, to be partly covered by the gums.

7. The use of metallic toothpicks, pins, forks, &c., with which people are in the slovenly and thoughtless habit of picking their teeth, ought to be studiously proscribed.

8. Abstain from washing the head.

9. Cold feet are another cause of tooth-ache.

10. The naked costume, damp night air, and the fashion of wearing the hair too short, very frequently contribute to disorder the teeth.

 Scary, painful stuff.  I  must to post some more Victorian love letters to make up for this blog entry. 

More Beauty Secrets of the Regency Lady:

Beauty Secrets of the Regency Lady — Have Cheeks like Roses in Bloom

Beauty Secrets of the Regency Lady — Does She … Or Doesn’t She?


8 Replies to “Beauty Secrets of the Regency Lady – The Smile that Dazzles”

  1. I particularly like
    “Sugar and sweet things were, at one time, denounced as the common cause of bad teeth and tooth-ache, but this is now believed to be a vulgar error.
    “8. Abstain from washing the head.

    9. Cold feet are another cause of tooth-ache.

    10. The naked costume, damp night air, and the fashion of wearing the hair too short, very frequently contribute to disorder the teeth.”

  2. @Abigail, When I was writing my last post on Regency Beauty, I noticed there were a huge amount of ads for dentists in the La Belle Assemblee. To be honest, I just don’t see how to care for teeth without modern dentists. The only practical suggestion I saw in this article was putting opium in the hollowed tooth. Good God!

    Oh, and gotta love getting naked gives you a toothache.

  3. Despite the really silly stuff, like hair being too short or being naked. I was surprised by some of the good advice and the knowledge of harm to tooth enamel and gums. Great post.

  4. @Ella — Thanks! You gotta think how paranoid a Regency person had to be about his/her teeth. A trip to the dentist must have been terrifying.

  5. Wonderful information as usual. Jane Austen mentions taking her niece to the dentist to have her teeth filed. That is filed not filled.

  6. Maybe you know of of more etiquettes of aristocrat(royal ) toilett lady ? Thank in advance

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