Cavities and missing teeth were common in Early Modern England, but it was much worse for the wealthy and even Queen Elizabeth herself, whose teeth were described as “very yellow and unequal” by a French ambassador and “her teeth black” by a German traveler, who correctly identified sugar as the culprit. That’s right: the sugar trade had reached England, and aristocratic teeth paid a heavy price for it. Surgeons, tooth-drawers, and blacksmiths had a lot of work to do pulling rotten teeth.
Sugar was so expensive that only the wealthy could afford it. Some were even using sugar paste to brush their teeth! Many in the lower classes would actually rub charcoal on their teeth to make themselves appear richer. As for actual dental hygiene, people would use quills or wood for toothpicks and cloths to wipe off plaque. We’re definitely happier with modern floss and toothbrushes!