The Sciences

Dental Doctoring Throughout History

Sink your teeth into this timeline.

By Sylvia MorrowOct 3, 2017 7:00 PM
Cavity in Tooth - Stefano Benazzi/University of Bologna
A cavity. (Credit: Stefano Benazzi/University of Bologna)

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

A trip to the dentist can be a real pain, even if you’re not among the roughly 1 in 10 people with high anxiety about dental treatments. But a whirring electric drill in your mouth may not seem so bad once you read about these ancient approaches to dentistry.

12000 B.C. | Chip off the ol’ chomper: 

The first known attempt at dental work, as evidenced in a skeleton unearthed in Italy in 1988 with a molar that had been chipped at with a stone tool.

(Credit: The National Museum of Dentistry after original owned by the German Dental Association)

5000 B.C. | Legend of the tooth worm: 

The first documented reference, in a Sumerian text, of a myth popular throughout the ancient world that a worm living in your gums caused dental pain and cavities.

2650 B.C. | First dentist: 

Wooden panels found in ancient Egyptian physician Hesy-Re’s tomb describe him as “Chief of Dentists and Physicians,” the earliest recorded mention of a dentist.

A.D. 20 | A steamy solution: 

Roman folk tradition recommends a minty steam bath to treat toothaches.

Pierre Fauchard. (Credit: Le Chirurgien Dentiste/A Paris Chez Serviers, 178)

A.D. 1847 | Filling the gap: 

Edwin Truman introduces a natural latex called gutta-percha, made from trees found in Southeast Asia, for use in root canal fillings. Previously, dentists had used anything from silver to lead to asbestos.

A.D. 1965 | Laser power: 

Researchers find that treatment with dental lasers makes teeth more resistant to decay. Studies since have suggested laser treatment could, in some procedures, help protect teeth, reduce pain and accelerate healing.

(Credit: Lucadp/Shutterstock)

Future | Print a new one: 

3-D printers and digital scanning technology are close to offering easy ways to make and reproduce custom dental products like crowns and veneers.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Magazine Examples
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.