5 gruesome facts about ancient dentistry

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No one likes a trip to the dentist, but at least they don’t still think your nerves are worms that need to be yanked out! Here’s five of the most gruesome procedures that were commonplace in ancient dentistry – the modern drill and injections won’t seem that bad after you’ve read this!

1) Slow drill

The Indus Valley civilisation of modern-day India, Afghanistan and Pakistan would slowly and painfully drain the pus from an infected tooth using a bow drill, which was turned by a taut piece of string.

2) Tooth worms

The Sumerians – as well as many other ancient civilisations – believed tooth worms ate away at teeth, causing the holes we now recognise as tooth decay. Some dentists yanked out nerves thinking they were worms.

3) Roman ritual

Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote that burning a wolf’s head or a pig’s trotters and popping the ashes in your mouth would soothe toothache. Amulets made from bone would also keep the pain away.

4) Mouse to mouth

Ancient Egyptians believed that slicing a dead mouse in half and placing it on the teeth or gums while it was still warm would cure toothache. They also made primitive replacements for lost teeth with shells or wood.

5) Winning smile

The Mayans of Central America and southern North America gave their teeth cosmetic upgrades, carving lines into them, drilling holes, filing notches or attaching gems.

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