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Fun Facts About Ancient Dentistry

  • There is evidence that dentistry has been practiced since 7000 BC.
  • Until the 18th century during the European Age of Enlightenment, cavities and other forms of tooth decay were thought to be caused by a ‘tooth worm.”
  • The earliest evidence of dental care comes from a prehistoric farming village, Mahrgarh, in what is now Pakistan. A total of eleven teeth from nine adults who lived between 7,500 and 9,000 years ago were excavated and contained holes drilled with sharpened flint points.
  • The ancient Chinese wrapped tiny pieces of parchment around painful teeth, all of which contained written prayers and incantations.
  • The ancient Greeks devised pliers for extracting teeth.
  • Ancient cultures chewed on twigs or roots to clean their teeth.
  • In the Middle Ages, people believed that dogs’ teeth boiled in wine made an excellent mouth rinse to prevent tooth decay.
  • Egyptians used a form of toothpaste over 5,000 years ago.
  • During the Dark Ages (400-1400 AD) many people believed that they could grow a new tooth by “implanting” one obtained from someone else – ideally from a hanged criminal.
  • Francisco Goya, a famous Spanish artist, depicts a morbid dental custom of his time in the painting, “A Caza de Dientas” (tooth hunting). Dentists transported live teeth often stolen from the recently deceased into their patients’ empty alveolar sockets.
  • Some other common tooth remedies from ancient times include boiling earthworms in oil and to put the oil drops into the ears and to tighten loose teeth required tying a frog to your jaw.
  • In ancient Egyptian times, wealthy people were more likely to suffer from toothaches, as they were the only ones who could afford sweets.
  • Among the first known dentists in the world were the Etruscans. In 700 BC, they carved false teeth from the teeth of various mammals and produced partial bridges strong enough for people to eat.
  • The earliest record of tooth decay was described by the Sumarians as “tooth worms.” There is also evidence that around 2700 BC, Chinese acupuncture was used to treat tooth pain.
  • In ancient times, people used combination tooth/ear pickers made of bone, quills, silver, or gold. These “dentiscalpias” were used freely by even the best-mannered citizens (similar to people today using tooth picks in public).
  • The Chinese are credited with inventing the first toothbrushes in the late 1400s.