Dentistry Through the Ages

bowdrill image

Dentistry Through the Ages

Dentistry Through the Ages has witnessed a fascinating evolution, shaping its practices and techniques over centuries. From ancient civilizations’ rudimentary attempts to address dental issues to the modern, technologically advanced methods employed today, the field of dentistry reflects an ongoing quest for improved oral health. Exploring this journey allows us to appreciate the historical significance of dental care, the innovative strides made by practitioners, and the transformative impact on individuals’ well-being across different eras. Join us on a historical odyssey through Dentistry Through the Ages to uncover the milestones that have sculpted the landscape of oral healthcare.

Early hunter gatherer humans wouldn’t have had much use for the dentist. Their diet and sporadic access to food meant that very few people developed cavities. Paleopathologists estimate at most 14% of hunter gatherer remains showed evidence of cavities, with many showing no evidence at all.  

 

This all changed with the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago. The new human diet which included an abundance of grains and carbohydrates made the mouth a haven for bacteria which destroy tooth enamel. It goes without saying that there were some pretty horrendous smiles going around back then.

With this came the need for ancient humans to devise ways to fix their tooth aches and ailments. This article will go through some of the interesting and at times gruesome ancient inventions:

Ancient root canal bow drill

bowdrill2 1

Evidence recovered from the Indus Valley Civilisation has suggested that the early humans cured tooth ailments using a bow drill. A simple bow and string which looped around the drill piece allowed the ancient dentist to rapidly spin the drill into the patient’s teeth. As there was no modern anesthetic to speak of, you just had to grit your teeth and bear it. 

Evidence recovered from the Indus Valley Civilisation has suggested that the early humans cured tooth ailments using a bow drill. A simple bow and string which looped around the drill piece allowed the ancient dentist to rapidly spin the drill into the patient’s teeth. As there was no modern anesthetic to speak of, you just had to grit your teeth and bear it.

Ancient Fillings

fillings

Archeologist in Slovenia found some early examples of tooth filling techniques. The fillings weren’t made from an amalgam of metals like modern fillings, instead they used beeswax to fill holes in teeth. So, if you wanted to fix your teeth back then, your best bet was to mind your own beeswax.    

The Clockwork Drill

Clockwork 1

This instrument (designed in the 1860s) was a tooth drill which worked by winding it up beforehand. That’s right, just like one of those toy cars. Except this time, I don’t think many people were having fun. The cumbersome design meant that these old timey dentists had to use two hands. Thank go we’ve come a long way.

17th Century Forceps

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This is basically a fancy term for metal pliers. These were used for extracting teeth. No anesthetic back then. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it, buddy.

Barber Dentists

barber shop illustration
American way of life: old illustration of a barber shop. Created by Job, published on L’Illustration, Journal Universel, Paris, 1857

A strange thing about the history of dentistry you might not know is that barbers (the guys who cut your hair) would also perform small surgeries and dentistry on their “patients”. “Short back and sides, please. Oh, and can you pull out this molar that’s been giving me trouble?”

If none of these sound like a good idea, you can count your lucky stars that you live in the 21st with modern anesthetic and instruments. Going to the dentist now is very safe, hygienic and best of all, PAIN FREE!

Dentistry Through the Ages traces the history of oral care from ancient times to the present day. Over the centuries, dental practices have evolved, incorporating advancements in technology and medical understanding. From early remedies to the sophisticated techniques used today, this journey showcases the continuous effort to enhance dental health. As we explore the milestones, we gain insights into the remarkable progress made in dentistry, underscoring its crucial role in maintaining healthy smiles across different eras.

From the early days of tooth extractions with primitive tools to the development of anesthesia, Dentistry reflects a quest for improving patient comfort and care. The 19th century saw the establishment of dental schools, formalizing the profession, while the 20th century brought innovations like fluoride treatments and the introduction of dental implants. Today, cutting-edge technologies such as digital imaging and laser dentistry redefine the landscape of oral healthcare. Through this historical lens, we appreciate how each era has contributed to the sophisticated and comprehensive field of dentistry we benefit from today.

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