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Dental bridges in ancient world

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

A copy of a Roman prosthetic bridge from the collection of the Science Museum in London
A copy of a Roman prosthetic bridge from the collection of the Science Museum in London

Archaeological excavations carried out in the Lebanese Sidon indicate that the Phoenicians used prosthetic solutions in the form of dental bridges. Also, finds in Tuscany illustrate that implants made of gold and natural teeth were not alien to the something unknown to the Etruscans.

Elements of advanced dental technology are also found among the Romans: they improved prosthetics and developed methods of immobilizing wobbly teeth. The subject of dentures was also included in the law of 12 tables – it contains a provision stating that before cremation there is no need to remove the deceased’s teeth permanently attached to the gold in which they were embedded (as opposed to dentures, usually made of gold, that needed to be removed before the body was incinerated).

The first mention of the treatment of Roman teeth was made by Aulus Cornelius Celsus. He wrote about the use of a mixture of cotton and lead fibers as a filling.

When it comes to the ideas of Roman doctors about the source of toothache and its treatment, there is a number of theories: starting from the existence of a “tooth worm” (Scribonia Largus), through the absolutely fantastic ideas of Pliny the Elder (who suggested that in order to prevent toothache, it was necessary to eat an entire mouse twice a month) to Galen’s theory that he attributed toothache to “the inner workings of virulent, destructive moods.”

Author: Daria Cybowska
Sources
  • James Wynbrandt, Bolesna historia stomatologii

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