A Trip Through Time With Teeth

Ancient tooth with dental implantsLast we posted an article dental implants Haworth, NJ provider Dr. Spector and the rest of his talented staff talked about the best foods for your oral health. However, today we want to talk about something a little more fun and take you on a trip back in time with teeth.

Let’s talk about the history of dentistry, and some of its most ridiculous and cringe worthy moments.

Before Christ…

Believe it or not, people have been keeping record of their tooth health for as long as recorded human history goes back. In fact, the first written record of tooth decay came from the ancient Sumerians around 5000 BC.  

Then there are ancient Egyptian records dating back as far as 3700 BC that depict several oral health issues and diseases of the teeth we see today.

There are even Greek writings from 1300 BC that depict Aesculapius pulling out a diseased tooth from a person’s mouth.

And don’t forget about toothpaste! This stuff has been around much longer than you might actually think. We’re talking as early as 500 BC in China, India, and Rome. However, it wasn’t really the toothpaste you are accustomed to today. In fact, ancient toothpaste might have actually done more damage then they helped, as they were made from ingredients like soot, ground oxen hooves, and crushed seashells. Sheesh, talk about abrasive.

Enter Medieval Times

During medieval Europe, from 1300 to 1500, society’s best were made aware of how important oral health was. During this time, the rich even had liquids which were made with the intention of helping them maintain clean mouths and whiten their teeth.

During this era, when people had oral health issues, they were treated by barber-surgeons. These medieval doctors were a sort of one-stop-shop physicians that performed all kinds of medical treatments from placing leeches to amputating limbs. During this day and age, however, the most common treatment for a diseased tooth was to pull it. However, they also knew how to fill cavities and fashion false teeth, but bear this in mind folks, there was no pain medicine and no sterile tools or operating environments.


Also, get these fun facts: Poor people in medieval Europe most often had much healthier teeth than the rich because sugar was a luxury that only the rich could afford. Peasants lived off a diet that was mainly comprised of the fresh fruits and vegetables they farmed and very little sugar or white bread (white bread was for the rich as well). The rich, however, had access to money and that meant they had plenty of sugar in their diets, which also meant they had plenty of cavities as well.

In medieval Germany, one recorded cure for a toothache was to go outside and kiss a donkey! This is no lie!

Let’s Start Brushing

The earliest records of an object being fashioned for the sole purpose of cleaning teeth was in 1498 China. At this time, handles were carved out of bamboo or bone and then coarse hairs gathered from the back of a pig’s neck were attached to the end. Kinda gross, right?

Pig’s hair bristles remained the popular material for toothbrush bristles all the way up until 1938 when nylon bristles were finally introduced. After that, the toothbrush became a close version of the same one you see in stores today.

Until next time readers, keep smiling.