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History of Dentistry 101

Here on the blog, we are all about educational information to keep your teeth shining and your visits with us pleasant. Today it is only slightly different. We’re still here to teach, but this time we are going to tell you about the history of dentistry as a practice. From ancient Sumer to the introduction of lasers, we want to tell you the story of our trade. So sit back with your coffee (we know you’re drinking, even if it will stain your teeth, we do too!) and enjoy.

Ancient Dentistry

The oldest evidence we have of dentistry – that is to say, any sort of medicinal work on teeth– is an infected tooth, roughly 14,000 years old that appears to have been cleaned with flint tools, and we think getting a cleaning is bad!

Back when Man was pre-agricultural, tooth decay was low, but as groups adopted farming around 8,000 B.C.E. cavities came with it. A Sumerian text from roughly 5000 B.C.E. describes the cause of dental caries as a ‘tooth worm.’

Jumping forward a massive leap to 2600 B.C.E. and we have the first known reference to someone as a dental practitioner. Hesy-Re was an Egyptian scribe who had this inscription on his tomb “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.” For this reason, he is often called the first dentist.

As with all things Egyptian, the Greeks carried the torch with Hippocrates and Aristotle writing about dentistry. They covered all sorts of techniques including treating decayed teeth, extraction, stabilizing fractured jaws and loose teeth. They even detailed the eruption pattern of teeth!

The last big advance to cover in today’s lesson is that of the Etruscans and Romans. Similar to the Greeks (as always) the Romans wrote extensively about their dental practices. The culture that was eventually absorbed by the Roman Empire the Etruscans stepped up the game and dental prosthetics were developed. These pieces would include gold crowns and fixed bridgework, bringing artistic achievement to the dental field. That right, grills are as old as Rome!

That will do it for this lesson, don’t worry there is no pop quiz here. Come back next time where we’ll discuss the dentistry in the Middle Ages! Will dentists enter a supposed ‘Dark Age’?

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