Dentists are some of the most feared individuals in society: at least, so popular culture would have you believe. If children’s TV shows, stand-up comedians, and horror films are any reflection of reality, there is nothing more horrifying than a visit to the local tooth doctor. Apart from being a totally untrue stereotype, the idea that dentists are scary actually has its roots in the history of the profession, which goes back a surprisingly long way!
Looking back at the way dental care has evolved throughout history is a great way to change the way you view your local dentist. Plus, learning about dental practices of the past elucidates some truly fascinating facts about dentists, dentistry, and society itself!
In 2014, the British Museum undertook the task of doing high-spec body scans on eight mummies from Ancient Egypt and Sudan. They found all sorts of interesting things, but one of the more fascinating finds was that at least one of the mummified individuals appeared to have had teeth removed. Though this isn’t necessarily evidence that ancient civilizations had dentists as such, it is pretty clear that tooth modification has always been a part of our history.
Long before barbers became the jovial staples of your lively local hair salon, they were responsible for a great deal else. Starting in Ancient Egypt and through the Roman era and the Middle Ages, barbers were often called upon to perform surgery, including on teeth. Particularly after monks, who were the other staple of surgical practices in ancient civilization but who were banned from performing surgeries on bodies for religious reasons, barbers took up the mantle and were routinely required to remove teeth for patients in pain!
The Wide World of Oral Health
Even after dentists became their own body of professionals, it was a long time before dentistry was more than the removal of unwanted or problematic teeth. The French surgeon Pierre Fauchard is known as the father of modern dentistry, and he was instrumental in bringing together the care of teeth with the health of the overall mouth.
Fauchard’s insistence that certain acids and sugars were bad for the mouth and, therefore, bad for the teeth helped expand the practice of dentistry to include the whole of the mouth. These days, all dentists are also trained in general oral health: Redcliffe dentists, for example, advertise themselves as a multi-specialty clinic specializing in dental and oral care.
Whereas in the times of Fauchard, there were few, if any, dental tools besides pliers (he had to invent many of his own tools, in fact), these days, the world of dentistry is aligned with cutting-edge technology. Digital computers have totally changed the way dental professionals go about their work, as they offer the power to scan and screen for diseases without ever putting a piece of metal in a patient’s mouth! It is no doubt that as the practice of dentistry progresses, the future of the practice will be increasingly digital!