As long as recorded human history has been around, people have been trying to improve their smiles. Today you have your pick of safe, healthy and tested teeth-whitening treatments available from your dentist, but your ancestors and those before couldn’t just make an appointment with a licensed professional. Instead, people have relied on some pretty bizarre (and downright disgusting!) methods to whiten and brighten their teeth.
Throughout history people have wanted straight teeth and a perfect smile. Cultures across the planet and through time have been obsessed with finding ways to improve what nature gave out and stopped at nothing to align jaws, fix bite issues and get a better smile. These days, thankfully, we have painless and nearly transparent orthodontic treatments like Invisalign, but the history of orthodontics wasn’t always so pretty, pleasant or painless.
Fans of the show Vikings, streaming on a TV near you via Amazon Prime or Hulu, know that these seafaring folk were an unstoppable force of nature during the height of their plundering. Although they were far from the only people to pillage the village, what set them apart from their contemporaries was their willingness to steal from religious orders.
All of this disregard for the general moral order of the time, plus the blood baths they tended to leave in their wake created a legend that’s grown far beyond reality.
The Vikings were absolutely terrifying and you didn’t want to be in their way, but they were also very tuned into fashion and trendy dentistry. You knew that was coming, didn’t you? They weren’t necessarily doing regular root canals, but they did incorporate cosmetic dental practices on the regular.
I’m almost positive that you’re going to learn something today. I was flipping through The Atlantic’s website when I came across this article from March 2017. It’s an interview with Mary Otto, the author of “Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health In America” and she has a lot of really good information to share.
For example, do you know why dentists aren’t doctors? I do. And so does Mary. She also makes some really good points, like why is it that dentists aren’t treated as medical specialists? I mean, you’d not go to some guy in an unaffiliated office where your records couldn’t or wouldn’t be shared if your liver was going sideways. You’d go to a hepatologist. Your mouth influences the rest of your body as much as your liver does. I’m pretty sure we’ve blogged about that before.
Something that most people won’t tell you is that the first dental college in the US was started by two self-taught dentists, back in an age when you could teach yourself dentistry and no one would call the police. They initially wanted to open a department at the University of Maryland in Baltimore back in the 1840s. When the physicians ran them out on a rail, they threw their hands up and said, “Fine, then. We’ll start our own dental school!”
Like all sorts of licensed professionals, being a dentist comes with a set (or series!) of letters tailing the doctor’s name. Every dentist has them, but have you ever wondered what they actually mean? And is there a difference between a DDS and a DMD? Should you be changing dentists to get a better experience?
So many questions! That’s why we’re addressing dental initials today on the blog.
Dental history is so interesting to me. I guess it should be since that’s sort of what I do with my life, the dentistry part, anyway. One really bizarre and prevalent belief among European populations is the toothworm. Do you ever feel like there’s something gnawing, chewing, digging around in your teeth when you have a bad toothache? That’s the toothworm. And you’ve got ‘em bad.
Hey, science wasn’t perfect under the Roman Empire, but it got better. Eventually. I found this neat paper on toothworms and how the belief started and circulated among pre-modern populations. I thought you might enjoy it as much as I did! (more…)
As it turns out, braces are actually a lot older than you might imagine and they have a long and sordid history. Although you’d imagine that every practical person in pre-modern Europe was much more concerned with tooth decay than how straight their teeth were, you’d probably have even odds that it was, in fact, the case.
I was in the barber shop recently, just watching the ole pole spin while I was pondering life and listening to the scissors snip away. You know, it wasn’t that long ago that I could get a whole list of medical procedures handled in that same chair, it was really an incredibly convenient set up.
But then modern medicine came along and now, you know, you have to come to me to get your teeth worked on.
Anyway, I found a neat article about the colors on that barber pole and how they’re related to dentistry. It was really very enlightening.
Sometimes when I’m alone in the office, my mind starts to wander and I think about all the things that have happened to get us to the point we’re at in dentistry. You do that, too, right? Like, who was the first person to call themselves a dentist? What sort of treatments did they use for dental problems before modern dentistry?
Did you ever just stop and wonder where it is that dentists got the idea to pull teeth or put in fillings? I mean, it had to start somewhere. It turns out that archaeologists have recently found some new evidence that kind of rewrites the history of dental practices. I don’t think we ever imagined how long ago we’ve actually been fiddling with our own teeth.