Going to the dentist today is like a day at Disneyland compared to what people endured thousands of years ago! Nowadays, you walk into your dentist’s office and wait patiently while browsing through magazines and listening to Easy FM. In past civilizations, people were cringing in pain with infected toothaches and full of dread in anticipation for what’s to come.

Sparkly Grills

The Mayans are credited with being the inventors of cosmetic dentistry because they were known to decorate their teeth by embedding them with precious stones or by carving notches and grooves into them. Tiny holes were made in teeth and ornamental stones—including jade—were attached with a glue made from natural resins, such as plant sap, which was mixed with other chemicals and crushed bones. The Mayan “dentists” knew how to drill into teeth without hitting the pulp inside, so they likely had a sophisticated knowledge of tooth anatomy.

Tooth Worms

Have you ever heard of a “tooth worm?” In the middle ages, they believed that a “tooth worm” had entered the body if someone had a hole or crack in their tooth. The idea of this creature came from the idea of a worm eating its way into an apple. “Tooth Worms” don’t exist but it started some pretty crazy dental procedures. Patients thought to have damage from a “tooth worm” were subjected to skin blistering, laxatives, bloodletting, nerve destruction via strong acid or a hot iron, and putting garlic cloves in their ears.


Hippo ivory was used to create dentures, like the bottom half of George Washington’s teeth. His dentures also had human teeth fixed in place by gold rivets. While the hippo’s ivory helped hold in other people’s teeth, it did not assist with eating or looking one’s best. George Washington was very particular about reshaping his dentures because he didn’t want his teeth to look as if they were pointing out from under his nose!

Ancient Toothbrushes

The first bristle toothbrush that was like today’s, was invented in China about 1498. The bristles were hand plucked from the backs of wild boars living in the colder climates of Siberia and China (frigid weather causes hogs to grow firmer bristles), and they were fastened into handles of bone or bamboo. Orient Traders introduced the Chinese toothbrush to Europeans, who found boar bristles too firm, they liked softer, horsehair toothbrushes. Nylon bristle toothbrushes weren’t used in the United States until 1938. Nylon was stiff, resilient, tough and kept its space well. Nylon was also impervious to moisture which help to hinder bacterial growth.

Thank goodness our dental practices have improved greatly over time!

Call our office today at (562) 434-6414 to schedule a pain-less and pleasant appointment.