Hand holding a model of human teeth

History of Dentistry

It’s no surprise that dentistry has been around practically for as long as mankind has been itself. Especially during the early years of human history, people faced dental issues.

The anatomy of teeth is really quite fascinating too, and it’s interesting to see how much humans have improved their dentistry skills over the years. Let’s take a look at the history of dentistry: From the times before Christ up to now.

Earliest Examples

Dentistry quite literally traces back thousands of years.

Humans from the stone age would sometimes forcibly remove teeth that were in a bad state or rotten. There is evidence that early humans tried to replace their missing or imperfect teeth with “root form” implants. In ancient China, it was not unusual to see people using bamboo pegs as a replacement for teeth. In ancient Egypt, different types of metals and sometimes ivory was used to replace teeth. This is known because of archaeological discoveries found with Egyptian mummies.

In some cases, Egyptian mummies were found to have been using teeth that were transplanted from another human. In one case, remains were found of a lower jawbone of a woman – that used sea shells to replace a few incisors. The incredible thing was that this actually seemed to work!

Dental fillings have also been around for a long time too. They were made of beeswax, as was discovered in Slovenia and date from 6500 years ago. Famous Ancient Greeks Aristotle and Hippocrates did some accounts about their experience and interest in the world of dentistry. They studied the pattern in which teeth erupt, and mention gum disease and the methods of extracting teeth with forceps as well as using wires to stabilise teeth that are loose and fractured jaws.

Medieval Period

During medieval times, a lot of people visited someone known as a “barber”. As well as cutting hair, barbers during this time used to perform surgery-like procedures. During the Black Plague of the 1300s, a lot of barbers would perform bloodletting – a practice in which cuts are made to drain “bad blood” that they thought caused diseases and health issues.

Medieval dentists usually extracted teeth that caused pain and infections. The “dental pelican” was a tool that resembled forceps and was used to grab onto teeth to pull them out. Going to a dentist during the middle ages was quite painful as there wasn’t modern medicine to put patients in a relaxed state or deep sleep.

Modern Period

Around 1650, dentistry changed thanks to Pierre Fauchard – a French surgeon. Fauchard made various improvements to medical instruments and brought a massive upgrade to the way people go about going to the dentist. His tools made not only the job of the dentist easier, but the patients were definitely much more at ease with the procedure. He took a step back and looked at various other tools from other professions, such as those from jewellers and watchmakers as well as barbers.

Thanks to Pierre Fauchard, dental fillings also got introduced into the western world. During this time he also came to the conclusion that sugary foods can cause acids that are bad for the teeth.

He also introduced braces, which were at first made from gold. Braces are often used in younger people to correct the growth of teeth and to stop them from being crooked.

The 19th century saw a huge change in the way dentistry was performed. Painkillers like morphine and anaesthesia were used to relieve pain or to put the patient to sleep, in order to make going to the dentist almost painless.

Eventually, X-rays were used in order to check teeth in a way that cannot be seen by the naked eye – and x-rays can be used to predict how wisdom teeth are going to grow in order to see whether or not a dentist will have to remove them from someone.


Dentistry has come a long way. No longer do we have to use caveman-like methods to violently remove our teeth, and we are thankfully more aware of the fact that brushing our teeth is a great way to prevent any sort of dental problems that may occur.

Thanks to science and the world of medicine, dentists have discovered new ways to go about things and all sorts of ways to make improvements. In particular, drugs that make the patient unconscious or relieve pain have taken a lot of fear out of going to see the dentist.


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