The Great Depression and Brushing Teeth

Brushing Your Teeth During the Great Depression in Rural Tennessee:

ME: What did you do to brush your teeth during the Great Depression in Tennessee?

M.H.: Yeah, well I was a little bit older, and I was twelve years old. When I got my first store-bought toothbrush. Before that, we would always make them ourselves, by getting a branch from a black gum maple tree, and we would just peel the skin from the bark, it was young bark, and we would take an end of it and start brushing our teeth. Basically we would use salt and soda together, and would rinse our mouths out with water, because we didn’t have toothpaste either.

ME: And, how long did you brush your teeth like this?

M.H.: Up until I was twelve years old, when I got my first store-bought toothbrush. Then I started using toothbrushes from the store, then.

ME: What year could you remember it being?

M.H.: Uh, let’s see. It was 1939, or ’40, because I was born in ’27. Twelve years beyond that.


M.H. describes how she, and her family brushed their teeth during the years of the Great Depression, up until she had first bought, and subsequently stuck with commercially available toothbrushes and toothpaste. She and her family needed to utilize natural resources, in order to accomplish what many people take for granted as a routine practice today.