You might cringe at the whine of a dentist’s drill or shudder at the feeling of denture cream, but today’s modern dentistry tools and techniques are nothing compared to the creepy ways people dealt with tooth problems in the past. Some form of dentistry has been practiced for at least 9,000 years, but that didn’t always mean getting it right or helping the patient heal. There wasn’t a lot of science-based medicine thousands of years ago; people mainly went with what they thought might work based on their societal beliefs. So, while these practices might seem creepy and disgusting, they were considered absolutely normal back when dental care first began.
Those Fancy Mayans
Never a group to take much care about human feelings, the Mayans were very big on appearances. One of the favorite ways for their highest leaders to show off was to embed jewels onto the surfaces of their teeth. Prehistoric cosmetic dentists would chip holes or grooves on the surface of the front teeth, then glue in turquoise, quartz, cinnabar and other gems using liquid amber or plant adhesives. Since there was no electricity in Mayan times, the holes for these gems were drilled by hand, probably a very slow and painful process!
Not-So-Tasty Roman Mouthwash
The Romans were very concerned with keeping their bodies clean, including their teeth. To them, nothing looked as healthy as a pearly white smile. Unfortunately, their favorite way to get those teeth so white was by using urine as a mouthwash. For some reason, they were convinced that Portuguese urine was the strongest and best in the world; it was so popular that Emperor Nero actually placed a tax on it. While the ammonia in the urine did kill germs, that “extra-strong urine” story might just have been a great marketing ploy by the Portuguese government.
The First Dental Drills
The ancient Egyptians were the first true dentists, developing a long list of useful tools to take care of teeth. One tool might have been useful, but it couldn’t have been very pleasant. Drills make more precise holes than chisels can, but how can you drill a hole without electricity? The Egyptian dentists created an ingenious type of drill using a bow, just like with a bow and arrow. By looping the bow string around the drill bit, they could pull the bow up and down, causing the drill bit to spin. It worked, but in very slow motion. Just the idea of a dentist slowly drilling away at an abscessed tooth is enough to give anyone the shudders, but that was the norm for Egyptian dental patients.
In the late 1800s, sugar was the favorite treat of the upper class, and harsh tooth whitening methods were eroding what little enamel they had left. The art of denture making was in its infancy, with most practitioners using animal teeth or ivory to begin with. New dentures made with human teeth were prized, but there were only so many dead bodies for grave robbers to pillage. Along came Napoleon Bonaparte and Waterloo to save the day! There were so many soldiers killed in the Battle of Waterloo that scavengers could make fortunes removing and selling teeth from fallen soldiers. Technicians boiled them, cut off their roots and fitted the newly freshened teeth into ivory dentures now known as Waterloo Teeth. Instead of hippo or cow teeth, the British upper class could once again smile using a set of actual human teeth.
When you’re ready to tackle those big dental procedures, only the most skilled Houston prosthodontists will do. Maple Leaf Dental can turn back time, replacing your damaged teeth with artificial ones that even your mother won’t notice. Call us at (281) 497-5558 or email us to get started. Your smile won’t wait forever!
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