(Taken from the book “Portugal no século XVIII – de D. João V à Revolução Francesa” by the Sociedade Portuguesa de Estudos do século XVIII (Portuguese Society of 18th century Studies), in the International Congress of 1990, chapter “A arte médica em Portugal no século XVIII”, by Armando Santinho Cunha)
Portuguese dentistry was completely crude and hadn't changed since the 13th century. Removing teeth was the common practice to resolve tooth aches and it was done on the streets or in a shop where the owner would call himself a “dentist”. It was a profession ruled by swindlers and quacks.
It is during the Pombal Era and the Enlightenment period that the 1st rules of hygiene and praxis appear. The 18th century is known to have been the century were the 1st dentist are recognized as a profession, called dental surgeons.
Since Fauchard, dental hygiene was treated as a science. He was against the use of abrasive tooth pastes and the abundant use of sugar and he would advise his patients to visit a dentist regularly. Until then, in Portugal, the only form of generalized tooth cleaning were the toothpicks. The 1st toothbrushes used in Portugal came from china and were introduced as novelty used only by nobility.
The Portuguese queen D. Maria I, was the 1st portuguese ruler to built a school in 1781 to teach and give licences to this medical speciality, called Real Junta do Proto-Medicato and since then dentistry became a more honourable profession in Portugal. Several names emerge after then: Feliciano de Almeida, the most recognized national specialist, Manoel Lopes, a surgeon, João Vieira, who translated the book “La chirurgie anatomique complete”, Monoel da Cruz, who invented a new teeth extractor similar to a wrench and Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, who was a dentist who treated the poor for free in Brazil.
Toothbrushes made out of gold, late 18th century, (photo taken by me at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga)
Toothpick holder, Portuguese porcelain from the Darque factory, 1744 – 1855, (photo taken by me at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga)