As children, most of us are taught that we should treat our teeth like our best friends. Regularly brushing and flossing ensure that your teeth remain clean and healthy. From the fluoridation of drinking water to advances in toothbrushes and toothpaste, modern dentistry is a far cry from the oral care of our ancestors. Here is a brief look back at the history of general dentistry.
Instances of oral care are about as old as humanity itself. One of the earliest recorded examples comes from a tooth found in Italy, which had been cleaned with flint and was more than 13,000 years old. The teeth of Egyptian mummies often feature fancy dental work, including early forms of fillings using resin, as well as gold thread used to bind loose teeth in place. However, the distinction of the earliest known dental filling goes to a tooth found in Slovenia filled with beeswax, which was over 6,000 years old.
Remember the story of George Washington's wooden teeth that you heard as a child? Well, while George never actually owned a pair of wooden teeth, he did have a number of dentures made from hippo and human teeth-which was surprisingly common in his day. Many poor early Americans would sell their own teeth to a craftsman for the construction of dentures for more the more affluent. The scariest part? In an age before antiseptic, anesthesia, or medical review boards, many American dentists were just moonlighting blacksmiths or barbers called upon to perform general dentistry chores.
The Tooth Fairy Has Deep Pockets
Many children today receive a cash reward from the Tooth Fairy when they lose their baby teeth, but did you know that the history of the Tooth Fairy could be traced back to ancient Norse tradition? During the Medieval Period, Norse oral legends, recorded in written form for the first time, mentioned a tradition in which children received money for their first lost tooth. Today, according to a 2013 poll conducted by Visa, American children earn, on average, $ 3.70 for each lost tooth!
Mouth Full of Metal
The Bond henchman, Jaws, famously had a mouth full of steel that could bend and crush objects at will. One beer brewer in Argentina, noting the correlation between poor decision-making and beer consumption, created an implantable dental bottle-opener to be housed where a tooth once stood. A few rugby players have had them installed, but astonishingly, these bottle openings have not caught on with the general public
Fortunately, modern oral care has come a long way since the days when proto-dental hygienists were filling cavities with beeswax, or barbers were giving you a shave and a molar extraction. Since the 1800s, general dentistry has fortunately evolved from a trade to a profession, meaning that professionals now focus exclusively on their craft. Modern dental work can now be performed with little to no discomfort, and is viewed by many as a requirement instead of the annoyance that it once was.