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The Evolution of Dentistry

By Jill Hamilton on September 20, 2012 in Just for Kicks


Today in dentistry, we have machines to identify our problem areas, to see teeth before they even erupt, and to drill and fill painful cavities. Imagine not having all these machines at our disposal. Imagine having a barber pull your eroded tooth after a clean shave. It is hard for us in the 21st century to envision this situation but it was very normal for our ancestors! Read on for the surprising evolution of dentistry. 

In 7000 BC, when the first traces of dentistry were discovered among the Indus Valley Civilization, there were no dentists. Only trial and error attempts at ancient dentistry.

By 5000 BC, many people believed the pains they felt in their teeth were cause by “tooth worms.” There has been evidence to suggest that the so-called “tooth-worms” was a belief that spread through India, Egypt, Japan, and China.

Dental Surgery came along sometime around 1800 BC. Sometimes tooth extraction was not done purely for relief of pain, but for punishment as well; all this was done without any modern sedation or numbing techniques of course. Ouch!

From the years 1700-100 BC, scholars recorded new discoveries including tooth eruption patterns, toothache remedies, treatment of decayed teeth and more. Hypocrites, Aristotle and Celus are just a few scribes who recorded this data.

By the early Middle Ages in Europe, dentistry was practiced by monks. Monks were the most highly educated people in the middle ages. Historically, barbers would assist monks in their dental duties since barbers often visited monasteries in order to keep the monks heads cleanly shaved. After monks were stripped of their duties as dentists, barbers naturally filled the need until they too were prohibited from practicing any surgical dentistry besides tooth extraction.  Can you imagine your barber cleaning your teeth?

From the 1500s to 1700s, research and published material of dental related books was on the increase. These published works culminated in 1723 when Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon, published The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth . Pierre received the title of “Father of Modern Dentistry” as his book was the first comprehensive account of dentistry and treatments.

Since 1723, progress has been rapidly increasing. We've discovered fluoridation and seen the invention of the toothbrush all in the last 100 year. Can you even imagine not having a toothbrush?

We now can go to the dentist and get a tooth fixed any time we want. And with rapidly evolving x-ray techniques, social media and digital notifications, headphones to cancel drilling sounds and much more, going to the dentist is becoming easier to remember, more convenient and almost an enjoyable experience!

Makes you thankful we are living in the 21st century doesn't it! Are you surprised by the history of dentistry? Tell us why in the comments!