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A Gonzo Guide to Teeth: The Untold Adventures of Dentistry

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A Gonzo Guide to Teeth: The Untold Adventures of Dentistry

submitted on 12 January 2024 by

A Brief and Entertaining History of Dentistry

When pondering the origins of dentistry, one may be forgiven for thinking that it began with the first instance of a toothache. However, the history of dentistry stretches back much further than one might imagine. In 7000 BC, the ancient Sumerians inscribed on a clay tablet that tooth worms were to blame for dental decay. One can only imagine the surprise of the first dentist, armed with a sharp stick and eager to battle the tooth worm.While the ancient Egyptians were busy building pyramids, they also found time for dentistry. The first known dentist, Hesi-Re, practiced around 2600 BC. His title was "the greatest of those who deal with teeth and the chief of tooth-worm fighters." And you thought your dentist's title was impressive.Fast forward to the 18th century, when Frenchman Pierre Fauchard, known as the "Father of Modern Dentistry," published a book detailing everything from oral anatomy to dental instruments. This massive tome was aptly titled "The Surgeon Dentist." Dr. Fauchard, however, did not have a sense of humor about his profession. He staunchly believed that patients should not laugh during dental appointments, as it could cause the dreaded "lockjaw."

Innovations in Dental Pain Relief: Thank Goodness

Nowadays, we have the luxury of sedation, anesthesia, and fancy numbing gels to make dental procedures more bearable. But for our ancestors, the pain of dental work had to be endured with gritted teeth (if they had any left).In the Middle Ages, barbers doubled as dentists, and their methods were far from gentle. A tooth extraction involved using a long, hooked instrument called a "dental pelican" to wrench out the offending tooth. In fact, the procedure was so painful that the patient would often be held down by several burly assistants. One can only assume these barbers were not in the business of repeat customers.Thankfully, the 19th century saw the development of more palatable pain relief options, with the introduction of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), ether, and chloroform. It's worth noting that these substances were often administered by inhaling them directly from a cloth or a glass globe, so dental patients of the time must have had quite the trip.

Braces: A Surprisingly Ancient Fashion Statement

Today's braces-wearers have a long and intriguing lineage. The concept of orthodontics dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who fashioned crude braces from metal or animal intestines. The Romans, too, were keen on straight teeth and used thin gold wires to align their pearly whites. One can only imagine the dental fashion wars of the ancient world, with Egyptian and Roman braces-wearers gazing disdainfully at each other across the Mediterranean.In the 18th century, French dentist Pierre Fauchard (he of the "no laughing" rule) invented a device called the "bandeau," a horseshoe-shaped strip of metal that fit around the teeth to improve their alignment. Fast forward to the 1970s, and braces entered the mainstream with the advent of stainless steel brackets and bands. And of course, the development of clear aligners like Invisalign has brought orthodontics into the 21st century.

Some Tips for a Brilliant Smile: Modern Dental Adventures

Having learned from the trials and tribulations of our dental predecessors, there are a few things you can do to keep your teeth in tip-top shape:
  • Brush and floss twice a day, like your dentist has been telling you since you were in diapers.
  • Avoid tooth-harming behaviors like opening bottles with your teeth or constantly munching on ice. Leave the heavy lifting to actual tools, not your chompers.
  • Limit your intake of sugar, coffee, tea, and red wine. Or at least swish some water around in your mouth after indulging to reduce staining.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. Yes, even if you're a dentalphobe. Remember, your dentist is no longer a barber armed with a dental pelican.
In conclusion, dentistry has come a long way from its ancient beginnings. As we enjoy our modern dental conveniences, let's take a moment to remember the tooth worm fighters, brace-wearing Egyptians, and dental pelicans of yesteryear. And always keep our teeth as healthy and shiny as possible – because who knows what dental innovations the future may bring?
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