The Beginnings of Dentistry

When you visit the dentist now, its a far cry from the type of dentistry that was available for our ancestors. We should count ourselves very lucky for the advances in technology that allow us to experience relatively little discomfort as opposed to the past. Some form of dentistry has been apparent since ancient times, with ancient Egyptian skulls showing evidence of holes having been drilled into teeth roots. Here we look at some examples of early tooth care:

It is believed that some form of oral surgery was practised as early as 2,500 BC but there is minimal evidence. Around 600 BC, there is evidence of animal teeth being used to replace missing human teeth, bound into position with chord! Thankfully, treatment is a lot more comfortable today. For General Dentistry Cardiff, visit

It is thought that the beginnings of real restorative dentistry began in 500 BC with the Etruscans in Northern Italy. Etruscan tombs have revealed dental bridges and dentures made from gold. When the Romans conquered the area, they incorporated many of the Etruscan practises and dentistry became an everyday part of Roman medicine. The Greeks also performed extractions in around 400 BC.

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In China, dentistry is in evidence from 200 BC onwards with silver amalgam being used for fillings. Oral care was also found in the cultures of India and Japan. Due to restrictions in the Quran against any mutilation of the physical self, dentistry took on a preventative course through the use of medicine and herbs. Scaling and cleaning was common as oral hygiene was considered of paramount importance. Extractions were only performed where a tooth had already been loosened.

As the Roman Empire collapsed, further advancements in medicine were not seen for almost a thousand years. Any surgery or medicine would be found with the monks in monasteries, who were aided by barbers. By the 12th century, the only people with any basic knowledge of surgery were barbers and they began to practise simple procedures such as the cleaning and extracting of teeth.

By the mid 1600s, most practitioners dropped the barber title and called themselves surgeons. It was in 1530 that the first book about dentistry was written in german, and aimed at the barber-surgeons. By the 18th century, many such surgeons in France began to restrict their services to just teeth. In 1728, Pierre Fauchard, a prominent surgeon, wrote the tooth Bible of the period called The Surgeon Dentist.

For the first time, there was detailed information on diagnosing and treating dental diseases and created a field of expertise totally separate from other medicine. Fauchard is known as the father of modern dentistry.

Dental practices in England didnt move quite as fast as they did in France. A book written in English was printed about dentistry in 1685 but no other work was published until 1768. John Hunter, who is known as the father of modern surgery, wrote a book titled The Natural History of the Human Teeth in 1771. This was an incredibly informative work on the detailed anatomy of human teeth. Hunter also developed a technique of transferring one persons teeth to another, and this practice was adopted widely.

The procedure was not successful, but it was the concept that was ground-breaking. It was the first time an attempt at transplanting human tissue had been carried and lead to vital discoveries about the phenomenon of implant or transplant rejection by the body.

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