Ancient Forms of Dentistry

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At Wellness BioDentistry, we understand why the thought of going to an Idaho Falls dental clinic can elicit feelings of anxiety in most people. Teeth are our speciality, and it’s no secret to us just how sensitive these body parts can be. The last thing most people want is someone poking around at them. Even a routine exam and cleaning is enough to make some people shudder.

Fortunately, modern dental technology has come quite a long way compared to its humble origins. In this post, we’ll be discussing some of the earliest ideas and methods of dentistry, and how they compare to our advanced Idaho Falls dental services.

The Tooth Worm

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It should come as no surprise that, in ancient times, misconceptions about dental problems were commonplace. Lacking the medical knowledge we now enjoy today, our ancestors were in the dark as to what exactly caused dental decay and cavities.

One such misconception was the idea of the “tooth worm”. This is the idea that cavities were caused by a worm boring its way into and throughout the tooth. At first this may seem silly, however, it’s perfectly understandable why people would believe this. Cavities do resemble holes caused by worms, and many worms can bore their way into material as hard as wood.

The myth of the tooth worm was so convincing that it was widespread across many different countries, including:

  • India
  • Japan
  • China
  • Egypt
  • Greece

Fortunately, Idaho Falls dental clinics like Wellness BioDentistry can diagnose dental problems without relying on mere speculation.

13,000-Year-Old Fillings Discovered In a Pair of Ancient Incisors

In Tuscany, a pair of incisors were unearthed roughly two decades ago. More recently, however, they were reexamined with modern technology, including electron microscopy, microCT scans, and residue analysis.

What these incisors revealed was a very ancient and primitive form of dental work. The incisors were hollowed out, most likely with nothing more than a variety of sharpened rocks. They were then filled in with a strange filling material comprised of vegetable fibers, hair, and bitumen (a substance we now use primarily for road surfacing, roofing, and other related jobs).

Considering subsequent “wear and tear” on the gums and surrounding teeth following the installation of this filling material, it’s apparent that this procedure occurred while the patient was still alive. Without an effective pain blocking substance (something unlikely at the time), we can only wonder about the agony the patient must have suffered during the process.

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At our Idaho Falls dental clinic, “agony” is not something you’re going to have to worry about when it comes to a mere dental filling. It’s interesting to think that, over time, we’ve gone from sharpened rocks to lasers as a means of working on teeth. We don’t use hair and vegetable fibers, either. Instead, we install resin-based fillings that are safe, non-toxic to the human body, and look and feel like your natural teeth.

Dentistry In Ancient Egypt

It’s no secret that the Egyptians understood a lot about the human body. Some of the earliest medical writings were discovered on ancient Egyptian papyruses. Considering the elaborate methods of mummification, they knew more than many civilizations at their time.

One such papyrus called the Ebers Papyrus shows what could be considered a form of amalgam filling used to treat loose teeth. The materials used in these amalgam fillings (which aren’t used at our Idaho Falls dental clinic) include:

  • Yellow ochre (for antiseptic purposes)
  • Honey
  • Ground barley

Although the Egyptians had means of working on teeth that included drilling and extraction, it doesn’t look like they utilized any kind of effective pain management until roughly 1550 B.C. Despite their relatively advanced medical practices and understanding of the human body, it’s likely that any form of surgery was considered a necessary evil – something one would hopefully never have to experience. Dentistry at the time was probably no exception.

Dentistry in the Ancient Etruscan Civilization

The Etruscan people were notoriously intelligent, luxurious, and concerned with all things aesthetic. It’s no surprise that they were the first people on record to have experimented with methods of tooth preservation involving gold. A preserved body has been found that had a “gold tooth”. That is to say, a tooth that was wrapped with gold bands. The bands had been adhered to the tooth via extreme heat.

As a civilization that placed such value on aesthetics and beauty, the ancient Etruscan people would have been very impressed by the cosmetic dentistry found at our Idaho Falls dental clinic. Imagine if they could see modern dental technology such as:

Ancient Greek Dentistry

There is in fact little record of any kind of dentistry having taken place in ancient Greece. Many believe that, to the Greeks, the ability to withstand immense amounts of pain was a point of fierce pride. Tooth pain resulting from dental decay was likely no exception, so their way of dealing with it was probably a stoic, “grin and bear it” attitude. At our Idaho Falls dental clinic, we don’t expect you to use this method. We have plenty of ways to relax your nerves and keep your pain at an absolute minimum.

That said, there was a time in which Egypt was ruled by Greek kings. During this time, a man in his late 20s to early 30s who lived in Thebes was not only suffering from dental problems, he was close to death. The cause of his condition was an advanced sinus infection resulting from dental problems.

He had so many problems that even experts at a modern Idaho Falls dental clinic would likely find working on him to be quite a challenge, so the ancient Greek kings at the time must have felt particularly overwhelmed.

That said, they did their best. They attempted to treat his dental problems with:

  • Linen soaked in medicine and inserted into the cavities for pain relief.
  • Protecting the cavities with cloth so that food could not enter them and cause further infection.

Ancient Chinese Dentistry

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Although dental extractions were around in China roughy during the year 6000 B.C., it wasn’t until 3000 B.C. that they began experimenting with treatments for dental pain. These typically involved acupuncture. At our Idaho Falls dental clinic, we use needles only to apply local anesthetic, so you don’t have to worry about acupuncture!

It is also believed that around 1000 A.D., the Chinese began to use arsenic as another method of treating toothaches. They also were some of the first to use silver as a form of cavities, which is very similar to modern day amalgam fillings.

At Wellness BioDentistry, you can expect some of the most cutting edge technology available in the dental field. Not only are we far ahead of the ancient methods listed above, we’re ahead of many commonplace dental technology and procedures utilized by dentists today.

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