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Roots and All: A Brief History of Dentistry

Teeth are pretty important to us humans. In addition to the whole helping us eat thing, teeth have a great deal of aesthetic and emotional power as well. They play a central role in our facial expressions, which communicate our emotions to the world and help us connect with our fellow members of the species. They can be used as a weapon, or even a warning—baring the teeth in a non-friendly manner is a surefire sign of aggression. They can also be used as a tool; who hasn’t used their teeth to rip open a plastic bag, or pop the top off a beer bottle? Well, that second example may be a bit extreme, but the point stands: teeth are invaluable.

Dentistry Didn’t Start Yesterday 

Dentistry is the science of taking care of teeth, and we as a species have been practicing it for thousands of years. The Indus Valley Civilization, located in what is now Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, provides the earliest known evidence of dental practices, dating back to 9,000 years ago. Beginning in about 5,000 BC and through the middle ages, it was generally accepted that “dental worms,” or worms that crawled around in your mouth eating teeth, caused tooth decay. Of course, the tooth worm was eventually discredited, and we know now that tooth decay is caused by bacteria. Dentistry as a specialty is a relatively new concept; in centuries past, tooth removal and other dental practices were largely performed by doctors or barbers. Beginning in the 17th century, dentistry began to take its modern form, leading to the specialty we know, if not love, today.

What Did We Do Before Toothbrushes?

The first known toothbrush was invented in China in 1498, but the toothbrush as we know it (with nylon bristles) wasn’t patented until 1938,[1] so how did people take care of their teeth before then? Different methods included rinsing with water, wiping off teeth with a cloth, chewing on mint or other herbs, and using toothpicks. In the 18th century Pierre Fauchard, the father of modern dentistry, recommended a good ol’ fashioned urine rinse to alleviate dental woes.

Going to the Dentist: No One’s Favorite Pastime

These days, we know we need to brush and floss regularly to keep our teeth healthy and strong. What’s harder to accept, however, is that we need to visit the dentist regularly. As many as 75% of adults in the U.S. experience some form of dental fear, which translates into a lot of avoided dentist appointments. Awareness of dental fear is growing, though, and steps are being taken to address it; for example, the training in Phoenix Arizona has dental assisting schools that often includes information on how to make patients with dental fear feel more comfortable in the dentist’s chair.

Learn to Love the Dentist!

Modern dental care is more than just a health issue—“perfect” teeth have become a beauty obsession in our society, as evidenced by the exploding popularity of at-home teeth whitening treatments in recent years. In the pursuit of straight, white teeth, however, it’s important to remember that what really matters is keeping them healthy; studies have shown a link between poor dental health and heart disease and even strokes. So even though it may be hard sometimes, and even a little scary, utilize the tools of modern dental knowledge and give your teeth some lovin’! 

Joe is an out doors man at heart, he hunts, camps and even plays alittle basketball. But on his freetime he loves to write, it relaxes him and gives him a sense of peace.