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Tortoiseshell tongue scraper, England, 1801-1850

Tortoiseshell tongue scraper, England, 1801-1850

Credits: Science Museum

Tongue scrapers were used to remove the ‘furry’ deposits on the tongue that build up after eating, drinking and smoking. They symbolise a growing interest in oral healthcare and would be used either during a visit to the dentist or in the home. In this example, tortoiseshell has been curved to fit the ivory handle. This type of scraper appeared around 1770 and was popular until the end of the 1890s.

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Glossary: hygiene

The science of health and how to maintain it. A condition or practice which promotes good health. The definition varies widely and differs across cultures.

Glossary: tongue scraper

An instrument to remove 'fur' off the tongue.

Glossary: dentistry

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