3 July, 2010 at 09:33 #555anne
Of all the changes concerning food in the 16th. century, the most important & influential was the growing popularity of sugar. From the 1540's a refinery in London was carrying out the final stages of purification, converting the coarse sugar into white crystalline cones weighing up to 14 pounds.
The national annual consumption of sugar averaged no more than a pound a head, but the great majority of this was eaten by the aristocracy, who rapidly began to suffer from tooth decay – even Queen Elizabeth.
The ashes of rosemary or powdered alabaster were rubbed over the teeth with the finger to help prevent decay, or toothpicks of precious metals were used – often worn in the hat. Expert barbers might also use metal instruments to scrape the teeth, then apply aqua fortis (nitric acid) to bleach them to whiteness. This treatment could be distastrous for after a few applications a lady may 'be forced to borrow a ranke of teeth to eate her dinner, unless her gums doe help her the better'.
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