Cosmetic Dentistry is a relatively new form of restorative dentistry and deals primarily with the appearance of teeth and smiles. In fact, until the 1980’s with the advent of resin cement, there was no such thing as cosmetic dentistry. So what did they do throughout history when they wanted a beautiful smile but there were no cosmetic dentists in town?
Leave it to the ancient Egyptians to lead the way in historical dentistry. Dentistry manuals from as far back as the pyramids have been found with the earliest evidence of dental surgery occurring between 3000 and 2500 BC. The first dental surgery typically involved drilling cavities and pulling teeth. But the Egyptians also tried their hands at crowns and bridges made of gold and used shells as teeth replacements. We also know that the practice of teeth whitening began with the Egyptians who used a paste made of vinegar and pumice. White teeth were considered a sign of beauty and wealth by the Egyptians.
In ancient Greece, however, human remains have been found with a spectrum of dental problems. Linen soaked in medicine was packed into cavities and, theoretically, prevented food from entering the holes. But as modern cosmetic dentists could have told them, this did not keep bacteria away. All that said, the Greeks commonly dealt with the pain and just chalked up some missing teeth to the experience.
The Etruscans may have been the first cosmetic dentists in history to use dentures. As experimenters in gold fillings cured with heat, they also used teeth from animals and other humans as prosthetics which were held in place with gold bands.
Your Barber, Your Dentist
In the year 1130 AD, your barber may have also been your dentist. Even after they were no longer allowed to perform oral surgery around 1400, they still filled teeth and then coated them in acid to make them a brilliant white. After it was discovered that the acid corroded tooth enamel, however, barbers decided to keep to what they knew best.
Fast forward to the American Revolution and a bit of Americana cosmetic dentistry trivia. We have all heard that George Washington had a set of wooden teeth. Prosthetic dentistry had already started using porcelain for dentures but getting them to fit properly was an evolution.
Although George had a lifelong battle with dental issues, his many sets of dentures were never made of wood. He had notoriously bad teeth and his chronic toothaches were treated with the standard treatment of the day, mercury chloride, which we now know can completely destroy teeth. By the time of his death, George had lost all his teeth despite a daily “healthy” regimen. Throughout his life, he had various sets of dentures made for him, one of which was made from hippopotamus ivory. It is surmised that his different facial looks in various portraits may have been caused by his ill-fitting parade of dentures that he wore throughout his life.
Today, cosmetic dentistry has made exponential strides since the days of the Egyptians. Modern cosmetic dentistry still offers dentures but they are far superior than George’s. New modern procedures can mimic the natural look, feel, and behavior of teeth with dental implants. And no longer will you have to go to your barber for a filling. Today, you can call a professional cosmetic dentist that can comfortably and affordably deal with any missing or discolored teeth. Call the dentists at Atla Dental to find out what modern cosmetic dentistry can do for your healthy smile.