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Ancient Dentistry: Do you really want to know? Posted by on Feb 17, 2016 in Latin Language, Roman culture

Salvete Omnes (Hello Everyone!),

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with love and chocolate! But, I wonder how many  of us overindulged on the candy and sweets?

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST WILL FEATURE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT DENTISTRY. IMAGES MAY NOT BE SUITED FOR EVERYONE.

So I was hoping as a contrast to my making a Roman Dessert post, that this post on Ancient Dentistry will make us  grateful for modern dentistry and encourage to keep healthy habits with our teeth!

Timeline

Tooth Worms were a common belief well beyond antiquity.

Tooth Worms were a common belief well beyond antiquity.

5000 BC – A Sumerian text of this date describes “tooth worms” as the cause of dental decay. Evidence of this belief has also been found in ancient India, Egypt, Japan, and China. The legend of the worm is also found in the writings of Homer, and as late as the 1300’s AD the surgeon Guy de Chauliac still promoted the belief that worms cause tooth decay.

2600 BC – Death of Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, often called the first “dentist.” An inscription on his tomb includes the title “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.” This is the earliest known reference to a person identified as a dental practitioner.

Cedar wood panel depicting Hesy-Ra.

Cedar wood panel depicting Hesy-Ra.

1800 BC – In the 18th century BC, the Code of Hammurabi referenced dental extraction twice as it related to punishment. Examination of the remains of some ancient Egyptians and Greco-Romans reveals early attempts at dental prosthetics and surgery.

1700-1550 BC – An Egyptian text, the Ebers Papyrus ( here and here), refers to diseases of the teeth and various toothache remedies.

500-300 BC – Hippocrates and Aristotle write about dentistry, including the eruption pattern of teeth, treating decayed teeth and gum disease, extracting teeth with forceps, and using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws.

Ancient Roman bas-relief of a dentist examining a patient, A Profile of Ancient Rome. A Getty Publication.

Ancient Roman bas-relief of a dentist examining a patient, A Profile of Ancient Rome. A Getty Publication.

          100 BC – Celsus, a Roman medical writer, writes extensively in his important compendium of medicine on oral hygiene, stabilization of loose teeth, and treatments for toothache, teething pain, and jaw fractures.

166-201 AD – The Etruscans practice dental prosthetic using gold crowns and fixed bridgework usually held together by gold wire or strips.

'The Etruscans, who predated the Romans, practiced making dentures and implants as early as the 7th century BCE. They used gold wires, gold strips, and gold rivets in their intricate dentistry.

‘The Etruscans, who predated the Romans, practiced making dentures and implants as early as the 7th century BCE. They used gold wires, gold strips, and gold rivets in their intricate dentistry.

Tools:

  • The first toothbrush, which is made of bristles, was invented during the Chinese Tang Dynasty (619-907).
  • When it comes to toothpaste, the ancient people used pastes made from various herbs. In ancient Greece, the toothpaste is made out of coral powder, iron rust, pumice, talc, and alabaster. The toothpaste of ancient Romans were made from ground eggshell and fresh honey.
  • The first artificial teeth were carved from animal bones and eventually wood.

 

Greek and Latin Suffixes and Roots for Dental Terms:

Prefix/Suffix Definition Example
-algia pain odontALGIA = tooth pain
-a without Acellular = having no cells
arth- joint ARTHOscope=an instrument to see inside a joint
dent, odont tooth or teeth ODONToma = tumor composed of tooth structures
-ectomy excision appendECTOMY = excision of the appendix
-emia blood hyperEMIA = above normal amount of blood in an a tissue
endo- within ENDOdont =inside a tooth
-gen- beginning, produce pathoGENic = disease producing
gingiv- pertaining to the gums GINGIVitis = inflammation of the gums
glyc- sugar GYLColysis = sugar dissolving
hyper- over, excessive, above HYPERmobility= more mobility than normal
hypo- below, under, deficient HYPOthermia = below normal temperature
-ia, -iasis condition odontalgIA = condition of tooth pain
infra- below INFRAorbital = below the eye
inter- between INTERcellular = between cells
intra- within INTRAoral = within the mouth
itis inflammation periodontITIS = inflammation of supporting structures of teeth
lingu- pertaining to the tongue LINGUal surface = the surface closest to the tongue
-logy study of pathoLOGY = study of disease
-lysis destruction, dissolving glycoLYSIS = dissolving sugar
muc- mucous MUCositis = inflammation of mucous membrane
neo- new NEOplasm = new growth
-oid resembling wordOID = resembling a word (this is not a real word)
-oma tumor odontOMA = tumor composed of tooth structures
-osis condition, disease periodontOSIS = condition of the periodontium
-path, -pathy disease PATHOlogy = study of disease
peri- around PERIoral = around the mouth
perio- supporting structures of the teeth PERIOdontal = involving the supporting structures of teeth
-phil- love acidoPHILic = acid loving
-plast, -plasty repair, form, grow gingivoPLASTy = repair of the gingiva to functional form
post- behind, after
py pus PYogenic= pus producing
-rrhea burst forth, pour sialoRRHEA = excessive flow of saliva
-scope instrument used to view arthoSCOPE = an instrument to see inside a joint
sial- saliva SIALorrhea = excessive flow of saliva
-stomia mouth xeroSTOMIA = dry mouth
super- above, excessive SUPERnumerary = excessive number
supra- above SUPRAgingival = above the margin of the gums
xero- dry XEROstomia = dry mouth

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About the Author:Brittany Britanniae

Hello There! Please feel free to ask me anything about Latin Grammar, Syntax, or the Ancient World.


Comments:

  1. JOSEPH:

    very interesting thank you

  2. James Bergman:

    This is really interesting. I am really glad that toothpaste no longer has rust or egg shells in it. I don’t think I would be a big fan of brushing my teeth if it did. I’m also really glad that dentists now know more about fixing teeth than just holding them in place with wires.