Good day, all! Thursday is blog day, and today we’re taking a look at the history of dentistry! Tooth-fairies like me have been around since the beginning of time. But waaaay back in the old days, people did not have the technology they have today. My goodness, can you imagine how uncomfortable a dental visit must’ve been back then? Yeeeouch!
It all began…
…around 130,000 years ago when great Neanderthals walked the Earth. Tools were found that may well have been used to fix teeth in this time, although more solid evidence dates back to between 13,820 and 14,160 years ago, when an infected tooth from Italy was found partially cleaned with flint tools. This finding represents the oldest reference to dentistry known to man.
The first drilling procedure was likely performed by the Indus Valley Civilization, from the Bronze Age in around 7000 BC. They used handmade bow drills, and you can be sure this was not a very pleasant experience!
The first filling was discovered 6500 years ago in Slovenia. It’s hard to believe, but they used bees’ wax to fill cavities! Back then the people did not know much about bacteria and ‘Sugar Bugs’. Instead, they were convinced that cavities were caused by ‘tooth worms’. Eeeuw!
Documents written on papyrus paper were then found that date back to 17th century BC, although some are known to be from 3000 BC. These documents show written knowledge of how to deal with loose teeth, toothache and infections, extractions, and dislocated or fractured jaws. Ancient Greek scholars like Hippocrates and Aristotle also wrote about dentistry, but by this time they knew much more about it. They spoke of the eruption pattern of teeth, treating decayed teeth and gum disease, extracting teeth with forceps, and using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws. Some say bridges were being used as early as 700 BC.
Dental procedures were not performed by a dentist, so to speak. They were performed by barbers or general physicians. So, you could have your hair cut and teeth fixed at the same time! Cool!
Keep in mind that people did not have anesthetic back then. They may have made use of some or other plant that had a mild numbing effect, but it was certainly not as effective as anesthetics used today. Back then you could live with the pain of a broken tooth for a long time or have it removed. Having it removed meant the pain would end. Leaving the broken tooth in the mouth meant a lifetime of pain. So, you can guess which route most people chose despite the discomfort.
Between 1650 and 1800 the science of modern dentistry developed. A French man named Pierre Fauchard was the ‘Father of Modern Dentistry’; a highly skilled surgeon who made awesome improvisations of dental instruments using tools from watchmakers, jewelers, and even barbers. He introduced dental fillings as the treatment for dental cavities, and convinced everyone that sugar-derived acids were the reason for dental decay (not worms).
From there, with all the information gathered and the introduction of technology and machinery, humans are now able to visit the dentist and get the exact treatment they need with relatively little or no pain at all. Thank goodness!
Well, there you have it – the history of dentistry in a nutshell (although I would not recommend chewing on nutshells, unless you want to visit the dentist sooner rather than later)!
Wishing you a great weekend ahead, all!
Excited Banjo Meets the Superhero Dentist