Dentistry is as old as the human race itself created when the first caveman got an abscessed tooth. We use teeth to eat, smile, and show emotion. Teeth are a point of vanity, and people are willing to spend a small fortune to make sure their teeth are straight, white, and they have a mouthful of pearly whites. Of course, it was not always that way, and many people are thankful that we live in an age where technology gives us the relatively comfortable means of keeping all of our teeth, with braces, oral surgeons, and in some cases, house call dentists. For those people who still have that fear of the dentist, this might offer a reminder that it can always be worse:
Egyptians and Phoenicians show their love for pearly whites by drilling small holes in the jaw to drain abscesses, and use gold wires to hold replacement teeth in place. Common theories for the cause of tooth decay focused on demons and worms, and cleaning teeth meant that one used bones, eggshells, oyster shells and oils. Not to worry, though, as according to the Law of Hammurabi, incompetent dentists who garnered too many complaints had their hands removed. Also of importance: Anesthesia wasn’t developed until the mid-1800’s.
During the time of Jesus:
Implements for cleaning the tooth were created in the Middle East, called a chew stick. Romans develop a precursor to the toothbrush, and begin drilling into teeth when Archigenes figured out that tooth decay starts inside the tooth. In order to fix rotting teeth, the patient would have their teeth drilled into and then stuffed with roasted worms, spider eggs, and spikenard.
The Middle Ages:
In the Middle Ages, barbers as dentists arose as they already had most of the tools required for barbaric dentistry practices: sharp knives and razors. Fortunately for those who lived at the end of the Middle Ages, Pierre Fauchard developed many techniques that are still used in dentistry today and is referred to as the Father of Scientific Dentistry. Still no anesthesia.
1700’s to 1800’s
Finally some civility was lent to the institution of dentistry. Notable figures in history include George Washington (whose dentures were made from ivory, not wood) and Paul Revere, who not only would herald the arrival of the British, but would announce the arrival of tooth decay to his patients. The mid 1800s finally brought about anesthetic.
Today we have a full battery of techniques, and more people enjoy amenities such as lasers, an array of tooth numbing products, and four out of five dentists recommending sugarless gum. Some dentists make house calls for those who are unable to make it to the dentist, or would prefer dental work done closer to home. Of course, remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so brushing, flossing, and using a rinse daily goes a long way to keeping the dentist away; and that is always good for a smile.