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J Hist Dent. 2000 Nov;48(3):99-105.

Sozodont powder dentifrice and Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup: dental nostrums.

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Indiana University School of Dentistry, USA.


The Great Patent Medicine Era (1865-1907) was the golden age of secret remedies--quack, non-prescription medicinal products, sold over-the-counter. Making outrageous and unsubstantiated claims, the makers of dental nostrums purported to effectively treat stained teeth, bad breath, diseased gums, toothache and teething discomfort. No proof was required to substantiate the safety and effectiveness of these concoctions. Advertisements for patent medicines were widespread, appearing in newspapers, almanacs, magazines, trade cards and multiple other media forms. Many dental patent medicines contained acids, abrasive substances, alcohol and/or narcotics, such as heroin, cocaine and morphine. Sozodont Tooth Powder, the most widely promoted and successful dentifrice of this era, claimed to "harden and invigorate the gums, purify and perfume the breath and beautify and preserve the teeth from youth to old age." Early dental researchers found that this remedy contained harsh ingredients (such as acid, sharp abrasives and astringents) which could destroy tooth substance. Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup, an extremely popular dental nostrum, was intended to quiet a fretful child during the teething process. However, it contained generous levels of alcohol and morphine sulfate which could cause coma, addiction or death in an infant. Although somewhat chemically altered, these two products were eventually removed from the market in the 1930s.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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