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Your mother and father probably tell you all the time that you should take care of your teeth. But why should you? Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is one of the most important ways you can take care of your body because it keeps bacteria out of your mouth, it keeps you from getting cavities, and it makes your smile bright and shining for pictures! But where did all this talk about teeth come from? Let’s take a look into the past to see where dental healthcare started.
Did you know that there has been evidence of tooth decay from over 25,000 years ago? That’s a lot older than your mom and dad are! Some of the first teeth fillings for cavities – empty spaces in your teeth that can happen when you eat too much candy – were documented that long ago. Ancient Egyptians were some of the first people to have documents of tooth decay and diseases.
People in Ancient China did a lot of strange things to help take care of everyone’s teeth. They would sometimes even use animal urine and feces to help treat tooth disorders – now, that’s unusual! They believed that worms were to blame for tooth troubles, and they did a lot of teeth whitening back then. They even used bamboo to help keep loose teeth from falling out.
When you read all about the earliest people around on the Earth, you’ll find that they didn’t have many dental issues as they do later on. This is because years and years ago, we didn’t have lots of sugary foods that would give us tooth trouble.
You may have heard your grandparents talk about their dentures – these are artificial teeth that can be removed easily from the mouth. It sounds gross, but people have been using them for years. A long, long time ago, dentures were made out of wood and had teeth carved out of bones. The dentures that rich families used were actually made from real teeth. However, these dentures weren’t really that fancy, because they weren’t made by actual dentists like they would be today.
A couple of years ago, a group of scientists in Italy discovered a 6,500-year-old skull with a cracked tooth that was filled with beeswax. This was one of the oldest dental fillings found so far! They found something just as unusual on another ancient Egyptian body that was about 2,100 years old – the teeth contained a number of cavities, and some were filled with linen (a type of fabric).
When dentistry was first practiced, it started out almost like an art form and was considered to be a religious act. It wasn’t until years later that taking care of teeth became helpful for curing issues with the mouth. It took a long time for dentistry to progress and it wasn’t until the 19th century that a lot of changes were made. The very first dental college, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, opened on February 1, 1840. This college is still here today!
Around the time of the early Middle Ages (years 500-1575), monks used to be the town’s dentists and doctors (monks were members of the religious communities). After some time, however, people didn’t approve of them helping people with their health issues and members of the government would forbid them to do any sort of operations. Around that time, barbers became the people who took care of everyone’s dental health. You could get a haircut and get a tooth pulled at the same place.
People in the Middle Ages actually cared a lot about their dental health. However, the equipment they used was not nearly as advanced as it is today. They took a more natural approach to dental health; instead of using toothpaste and floss, they would use different spices and herbs like rosemary or mint. They would combine these with liquids and make their own mouthwash!
The first book on dentistry, called The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth was published during the Middle Ages in the year 1530. It was published in Germany and was written for barbers and surgeons to learn all about dental hygiene, pulling teeth, and fillings.
Now that you know a little about the history of dentistry, you can remember these things the next time Mom tells you to brush your teeth. If you want to learn more about the world of dentistry and how to take care of your teeth, click on some of these links!
- History of Dentistry
- Ancient China
- Fixing Ancient Toothaches
- History of Dentistry Timeline
- National Museum of Dentistry
- Test Your Knowledge of Dental History
- American Dental Education Association: History of Dentistry
- Out-of-the-Past of Dental History
- Dentistry History in Texas
- Engines of Our Ingenuity: Pierre Fauchard
- George Washington – A Dental Victim
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