A surprising number of children and adults are afraid of visiting the dentist. Anybody who visits often will attest to the fact that this isn't really a rational fear; modern dental practices are always safe and hygienic, and they're almost always comfortable and painless. Taking an annual visit to ensure your teeth are in good condition is not a tall order. Even so, some people cling to antiquated ideas about what dental surgeries are like. So — are these views pervasive for a reason? Do those old horror stories reflect on modern dentistry at all?
Ancient Egyptian Braces
It's hard to believe, but the earliest orthodontic device on record dates back to 2500BC and belonged to an Ancient Egyptian patient. It doesn't bear much resemblance to our modern braces, but it served a similar purpose.
Holes were drilled through two teeth, allowing them to be connected by a piece of gold wire. It is believed that this was intended to hold one damaged tooth in position relative to the healthier teeth beside it. Some historians feel that it may also have served an aesthetic purpose. Today, many patients prefer to hide their braces than to show them off — and of course, braces are never drilled into the teeth.
Our modern version instead holds the wire in place with brackets glued to the surface of the teeth. It's perfectly safe and comfortable. The same could likely not be said for the poor owner of those two gold-wired teeth — and unfortunately, the device probably wasn't very effective either.
Ancient Greek Cavities
While the Ancient Egyptians were at least trying, the Ancient Greeks took a different tact. Though tooth decay and cavities were a huge problem for many individuals due to their bad diets, and many people suffered from immense pain, the only known treatment was to remove the tooth.
However, most Ancient Greeks would never undertake this treatment. It was considered weak to submit to the pain and be left with an ugly gap in your mouth. Instead, they would insert herb-soaked rags into the mouth and press them up against the damaged teeth to try and prevent further decay.
Modern dentists would never allow you to develop such terrible pain in the first place — but equally, losing a tooth doesn't have to be a Greek tragedy these days either, as it can easily be replaced with a crown or a bridge that looks completely undetectable in your mouth.
There are countless more examples of terrible dental practice throughout history. Perhaps that is where people get their frightening ideas about the dentist's chair from — but in truth, we're lucky to be living in an advanced age with fantastic new technologies and great patient care. We owe it to civilisations past to take advantage of that and really take care of our teeth