Fun Facts About Teeth - History of Dentistry

Since National Dentist Day is March 6, we thought we would take a look back at the history of dentistry this month. Dentistry may seem like a modern profession, but fossils and historical writings show that dentists have been around for a long, long time. There is even an ancient Egyptian manuscript that talks about their ‘doctor of teeth’!

Dentists weren’t always the esteemed ‘doctors of teeth’ we know today, though. In fact, barbers used to do dental work in their salons between haircuts! It may seem crazy now, but back then they were some of the only people with enough experience to use knives carefully! Barbers eventually turned into modern surgeons and dentists, but the technology didn’t evolve quite as fast. So even though taking care of your teeth has always been necessary, it wasn’t always pleasant. Did you know anesthesia wasn’t used for dental procedures until 1790? And Novocain wasn’t even discovered until 1905? Ouch!

Here are some more fun facts about the history of dentistry that will make you happy you live in modern times:

  • Many people believed that cavities were caused by ‘tooth worms’ until that theory was finally disproven in the 1700’s.
  • Before the modern toothbrush was invented, most either used a chewing stick, or brushed their teeth with horse hairs.
  • Ancient Egyptians scrubbed their teeth with a powder made from ox hooves and eggshells (5000 BC)
  • It is believed that kids in prehistoric times did not suffer from tooth decay since sugar was not a regular part of their diets
  • During the Middle-Ages in Germany – the cure for a toothache included a kiss from a donkey.
  • The anesthesia used by dentists is often called laughing gas because laughter is its most common side effect.

Lucky for us, dentists today have all the best tools, so even if you have a toothache, you don’t need to kiss any donkeys.