Early Dentistry Makes Visits Today Downright Enjoyable

Dr. McLeod and the friendly staff at Newberg Family Dental understand many of their patients don’t necessarily enjoy a trip to see the dentist. Dental anxiety can give even the most stalwart individual a moment’s pause when it comes time to schedule that next appointment. However, the advances made in dental practices and technology since the field was first invented over 2000 years ago has made contemporary visits to the dentist’s office the least painful, and most pleasant, experience in the history of the profession.

The earliest known written record about toothaches was found inscribed on a tablet in what was once the ancient city of Nineveh, located in modern day Iran. The tablet, referred to as The Legend of the Toothworm, blamed toothaches on tiny worms that burrowed inside of a person’s tooth. As peculiar as that theory may sound, ancient man also used to believe evil spirits or unbalanced humors (the ancient theory that the body was comprised of four fluids that determined a person’s health) caused toothaches.

While historians don’t know exactly when the tablet was inscribed, evidence does suggest that the world’s first known dentist, the Egyptian physician Hesi-Re, lived around 3000 B.C. The Papyrus Ebers, an ancient text historians believed written around 1500 B.C., reveals over 700 remedies used by ancient Egyptians to treat dental and medical problems, some of which date back to 3500 B.C. While most treatment methods required the use of herbs and incense to help easy tooth pain, evidence suggests that the ancient Egyptians had already developed the ability to create sets of false teeth by tying teeth together with gold wire.

Unlike what the evidence might suggest, ancient dentists were held to a high standard by government officials, much like dentists today. The Code of Hammurabi, the ancient law code enacted by the sixth king of Babylon, describes the dental profession as highly regulated by the central government, and even outlines penalties for malpractice or unsuccessful treatment.

As time went on, more theories and treatment methods for dental pain began to emerge. The famous Roman physician Archigenes believed tooth pain was caused by problems inside the tooth itself, and created a special drill designed to get inside the tooth. After drilling inside a patient’s tooth, Archigenes recommended filling the cavity with a mixture containing spikenard (a medicinal herb), roasted earthworms, and crushed spider eggs!

During the Middle Ages, monks and barbers (the same people cutting hair today) doubled as the local dentist, and used to hold tooth pulling shows (complete with jugglers and a stage) in the middle of the town square. Dentist during the Civil War used to fill teeth with a variety of metals, including silver, lead, gold, and even asbestos.

So the next time you begin to feel a little uncomfortable at the thought of scheduling your next dental appointment at Newberg Family Dental, just remember that Dr. McLeod’s professional staff has your comfort in mind, and that dentistry has come a long way since the days of spider eggs.