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Metal bottle for Graves' tooth powder, United States, 1906-1916

Dr E L Graves, an American dentist, claimed that his tooth powder “cleanses, brightens, beautifies and saves the Teeth, heals soft and bleeding gums [and] makes fillings last”. He also claimed it was “unequalled” and that his recipe was the result of 32 years of investigation. The tooth powder cost 25 cents a bottle and was guaranteed by the Food and Drugs Act passed by the United States government in 1906. It was also sold in the United Kingdom. However, regular tooth brushing only became commonplace in the United States after American troops brought back the habit after the Second World War.

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    Glossary: dentistry

    The study, treatment and management of diseases affecting the mouth, jaws, gums, teeth and their supporting tissues.

    Glossary: tooth powder

    A powder used for cleaning the teeth. Tooth powders were in general use in 1800s Britain. Most were homemade, with chalk, pulverized brick, or salt as ingredients.