Illustration of ancient dental problems showcasing early dental tools and techniques

How Did People in the Past Deal with Dental Problems?

February 1, 2024

Introduction: The Evolution of Dental Care

Dental health, a crucial aspect of overall well-being, has been a concern for humans since ancient times. The journey of dental care and how people in the past dealt with dental problems is not only fascinating but also enlightening, offering insights into the evolution of modern dentistry. This article delves into the historical practices, tools, and beliefs surrounding dental problems and their treatments.

The Ancient Origins of Dental Problems and Dental Practices

Early Evidence of Dental Work

Archaeological findings have revealed that dental problems were addressed as early as 7000 BC. The Indus Valley Civilization showed evidence of teeth having been drilled, signifying an early form of dental treatment.

Herbal Remedies and Early Dentistry

In ancient times, various civilizations used herbal remedies to treat dental problems. The Sumerians, for instance, mentioned “tooth worms” as a cause of dental decay, a belief that persisted into the Middle Ages.

The Influence of Greek and Roman Dentistry

Innovations in Dental Tools and Techniques

The Greeks and Romans contributed significantly to early dentistry. Notable physicians like Hippocrates and Galen wrote about dental problems and treatments, laying the groundwork for future advancements.

The Emergence of Dental Prosthetics

The Etruscans, in particular, were pioneers in creating dental prosthetics. They crafted false teeth from various materials, including animal and human teeth, demonstrating an early understanding of restorative dentistry.

Medieval Dentistry: A Blend of Science and Superstition

The Rise of Barber-Surgeons

During the Middle Ages, barber-surgeons began to emerge as the primary practitioners of dental care. They performed a variety of services, from tooth extraction to bloodletting, often without any scientific basis.

Folk Remedies and Charms

Folk remedies and charms were also commonly used to treat dental problems. These ranged from herbal concoctions to prayers and incantations, reflecting the blend of superstition and emerging science.

The Renaissance: A Turning Point in Dental History

Advancements in Dental Knowledge

The Renaissance period marked a significant shift in the understanding and treatment of dental problems. This era saw the publication of the first book entirely devoted to dentistry, “The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth,” by Artzney Buchlein.

The Birth of Modern Dentistry

Pierre Fauchard, often called the “father of modern dentistry,” revolutionized dental care in the 18th century. His book, “The Surgeon Dentist,” detailed a comprehensive system for the practice of dentistry, including methods for filling teeth and creating dentures.

The 19th Century: The Era of Dental Innovation

The Introduction of Anesthesia

The 19th century was a period of remarkable innovation in dentistry. The introduction of anesthesia transformed dental surgery, making procedures far less painful and more bearable for patients.

Technological Advancements in Dentistry

This era also saw the development of new dental tools and materials, such as the dental drill and vulcanized rubber for dentures, further advancing the field of dentistry.

The 20th Century and Beyond: Modern Dentistry

The Rise of Preventative Dentistry

In the 20th century, the focus of dentistry shifted towards prevention. Fluoridation of water and the use of fluoride toothpaste significantly reduced the incidence of dental problems.

Technological Breakthroughs and Cosmetic Dentistry

Technological breakthroughs, such as digital X-rays and laser dentistry, have further enhanced dental care. Additionally, the rise of cosmetic dentistry has allowed for more aesthetic treatments.

Conclusion: The Ongoing Evolution of Dental Care

The history of how people dealt with dental problems reflects humanity’s enduring quest for health and well-being. From ancient herbal remedies to modern technological advancements, the evolution of dental care is a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of better health solutions.

For those who are intrigued by the evolution of dental care and wish to explore more about modern dental practices and treatments, I highly recommend visiting our other insightful blog posts. One particularly interesting read is our article on the Effects of Coffee & Tea on Teeth. This blog delves into how everyday beverages can impact your dental health and offers valuable tips for maintaining a healthy smile. Don’t miss out on this and other informative articles that can help you navigate the world of dental care with confidence and knowledge.


  1. What was the most common dental practice in ancient times? In ancient times, tooth extraction and herbal remedies were the most common practices for treating dental problems.
  2. How did the concept of “tooth worms” influence dental care? The belief in “tooth worms” as the cause of dental decay influenced many early treatments, leading to various superstitious practices and remedies.
  3. What was Pierre Fauchard’s contribution to modern dentistry? Pierre Fauchard, known as the “father of modern dentistry,” revolutionized dental care with his comprehensive approach to dental treatment, including the development of dental prosthetics and fillings.