Posted by Jessamyn on September 24, 1997 at 21:30:54:
In response to Her Teeth Are Tolerably Good..., written by Carrie on September 24, 1997 at 14:13:33
] In the movie P&P2, C. Bingley makes a comment about Elizabeth's teeth being good when she is describing her (not very flatteringly) after the gathering at Pemberly. I was wondering, what was the general condition of teeth during the Regency? I am sure they practiced some sort of dental care but obviously not what it is today. Would it have been possible for Mr. Darcy or Elizabeth to have poor teeth and still have been considered handsome? If Jane were missing a tooth anywhere would she still have been so beautiful?
] ~Carrie - who wonders about many things
This topic is really striking a chord with me, since I got online to try to ignore the pain of the drilling I just got done for a crown!
I think tooth degeneration may be one of the big reasons women put themselves on the marriage market so young, and were washed up by their late twenties. In the nineteenth century I think some people did practice some sort of brushing, but dentistry was pretty much limited to extraction. As late as the 1930s, in English novels at least, losing teeth and toothaches are pretty common occurrences. I think there's an Edith Wharton novel in which a (young) woman is upset over something and everyone's told she has a toothache, which they don't give a second thought.
There's a mystery story by Allingham where our hero fools the bad guys by pretending he has a toothache and muffling his head in a cloth (apparently a standard way of coping)--except it's not him under all that swaddling, it's a double! And there's another book in which the author makes some remark along the lines of, "like many country women, she looked older than her years, as she had lost most of her front teeth"--this of a woman of forty!--"but one could still see the remains of the pretty young maid she had been fifteen years before."
Even in the 1960s, when my parents visited England, British dentistry was hardly state-of-the-art. My parents rented a flat above a dentist, and he kept wanting to look at their teeth: he was fascinated by their up-to-date fillings.
However, I think that Austen's references to "good teeth" probably have more to do, in young women at least, with their being straight and even than just being in existence. It's easy to forget in this orthodontic age that most people don't have straight teeth.
Mine happen to be very straight, which would have been nice for me then--except that I would have lost half of them by now...
Posting followups to old messages is disabled; instead go to the main index and post a new message which mentions this one.