Scared of the dentist? Try living over 100 years ago!


Old Dental Instruments
A collection of fearsome looking dental instruments from years gone by

Dental phobias are very common and most dentists nowadays are considerate and caring when it comes to helping their patients to overcome these phobias.

If you have a phobia, anxiety or just uncomfortable visiting the dentist then maybe you should envisage what our ancestors had to put up with! The array of medieval tools, equipment and instruments would be more akin to something found in a horror movie.

Stone Age Dentistry

One of the earliest dental implements was recently uncovered by researchers investigating a neolithic graveyard in Pakistan. They found evidence that stone age dentists were using flint-tipped drills to treat their patients. The evidence dates from around 9000 years ago. We can only assume that the procedures were very painful indeed, with modern anaesthetic being a relatively recent invention!

The oldest filling found in a tooth has been dated to 6500 years ago, the cavity had been packed with wax, which is pretty ingenious considering the rudimentary technology available at that period in time.

Stone Age Dental Drill
A Reproduction of the stone age dentist's drill.

Ancient Rome

The Etruscans, who were later conquered by the Romans, produced the first known examples of dental bridges. These were created by connecting gold rings with natural teeth. The Romans themselves made many advancements, including gold crowns and dentures made from materials such as bone and ivory. They also had specialist physicians, who were skilled in extracting infected teeth. Opium was commonly used as an anaesthetic during this period.

I wonder how many ancient Romans became addicts after visiting the dentist!

Roman Teeth Whitening

It's also widely believed that the Romans pioneered the practice of Teeth Whitening.

However, if you are looking for a cheap tooth whitening solution then we would recommend against following our ancestors, methods. Historians say that they gargled with urine, which would have had some effect due to it's ammonia content. We don't know if patients used their own or if the dentists of the time provided it a sample for them!

Early Cosmetic Dentistry

The Maya civilization extended through much of what is now Central America. They were famous for making many amazing advancements in architecture, astronomy, art and literature before being conquered by Spanish colonisation.

Maya Cosmetic Dentistry
An example of jewel inlays on an ancient Mayan skull.

Did you know that they were also pioneers in the field of cosmetic dentistry?

Inlays, filing and tooth sharpening were common practice. The exact reasons for this are not fully understood. Some historians argue that religion and social status played a part. However, it is entirely possible that the cosmetic dentistry of this period was performed for the same reason as it is today; for simple cosmetic appeal.

The techniques used were extremely sophisticated and showed that the dentists of the time had a remarkable knowledge of tooth anatomy. They were able to fit the jewel inlays without damaging the nerves or gums.

The treatment must have been extremely uncomfortable though, the Maya people must have taken a great deal of pride in the appearance of their teeth in order to undergo surgery of this kind that was not completely necessary.

The History of the Toothbrush

Giant Toothbrush
Perhaps not as scary as some dental implements!

The humble toothbrush is an essential part of everyday dental hygiene. While it is not something that strikes fear into the heart of your average person, it has still underwent a remarkable evolution over time.

Ever increasing demand for greater comfort and convenience has sparked continuous innovation and inventors and innovators have always been keen to address that demand.

Although the Chinese are credited with the invention of the toothbrush, history shows that ancient Egyptian tombs were found to contain 'toothsticks'.

However, real credit must be given to the Chinese for their invention of their 15th Century aromatic 'chewing sticks' the precursor to what we use today. It is widely believed that it is they who followed on from these 'chewing sticks' to the invention of the natural bristle toothbrush.

Like many discoveries, travellers brought this toothbrush to European shores where the design was adapted over the years to use, horse-hair, hog or swine bristles and even feathers. In the late 1700s William Addis (yes.... same one!) designed a toothbrush with a handle and bristles but it wasn't until the middle 1800s that the three row brush, again using swine bristles, was designed and became commonly used, even until today.

In 1938 when Du Pont invented nylon, the toothbrush that we use today, was produced with these 'new' nylon bristles. Some time later, in the 1950s and to the preference of the ever demanding consumer, softer nylon bristles were manufactured.

Following this, in 1939 the electric toothbrush was invented.

Dr Scott's Electric toothbrush
Early advert for an electric toothbrush

The History of Dental Floss

Dental Floss Advert
Early Dental Floss Advert

Dental floss has been around since the early 1800s in various forms.

Credit for the invention of the first type of dental floss goes to a New Orleans dentist, Levi Spear Parmly, who strongly recommended cleaning with silk floss. However, dental floss wasn’t able to be bought 'over the counter' until 1892. Johnson & Johnson had the first patent for dental floss and it was actually made from the same silk as doctors used for stitches. Silk had a tendency to shred and the rising cost of silk was also an issue so when nylon was invented it replaced silk as the main fabric in the production of dental floss.

The History of Toothpaste

Toothpaste Factory

The unpalatable ingredients of toothpaste, in ancient times, included powdered fruit, burnt or ground shells or bark, dried flowers and even talc and all mixed with ingredients like honey in an attempt to make them more palatable. Unwittingly, some of the earlier components of toothpaste meant that teeth were actually damaged, more than protected.

The toothpaste we are a little more familiar with today, started life as some form of soap or even chalk. In the early part of the 1800s powdered toothpaste was most commonly used and it was only in the late 1800 that a cream toothpaste was developed. This was supplied in jars and the more familiar toothpaste tube wasn’t produced until the end of the 19th century and is still used by us today, despite the introduction in the 1950s and the popularity of pump dispensers.

There is no doubt that dentistry has come a long way over the years but we share a common goal with our ancestors; a healthy, attractive looking smile.

If you are looking for a dentist that prides itself on only using the very latest innovations and dental techniques then please contact us today.

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