From the bizarre to the creepy, the history of dentistry reveals some tools and procedures that will terrify you even today.While going to the dentist is something that many people dread, our fears must be nothing compared to what people in the past had to contend with. The history of dentistry indeed reveals some downright terrifying practices.
For centuries, dentistry was the work of skilled laborers, not highly-trained doctors. In medieval Europe, for example, many Dental procedures were carried out by barber-surgeons, medical practitioners who shaved monk’s heads and used their expertise with a blade to make a profit out of surgical procedures as well. The mortality rate of these procedures was, expectedly, high.
While the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution changed the history of dentistry by elevating it to a more learned profession, dental tools and practices of this era still remain largely terrifying today.
For one, because anesthetic was rare, people frequently had their teeth pulled with no pain-killers. Furthermore, many dentists would pull out teeth for any toothache-related issue, even if the infection causing the pain had already spread to the gums.
And as the history of dentistry moved into the 20th century and things started looking more like they do today, the tools and procedures grew no less disturbing — and fascinating. See for yourself in the photos above.
After this photographic look at the history of dentistry, check out these disturbing before-and-after photos from plastic surgery’s early days. Then, see five of the creepiest medical treatments of decades past.
1. A young boy with rotten teeth at Friern Hospital in London. 1890.
2. A supposed dentist needs help from two youths as he executes a tooth extraction. Circa 1910.
3. Mother pulling out her son’s bad tooth. 1897.
4. Textbook image showing orthodontic treatment. 1906.
5. A man pulls another’s tooth in a room filled with a variety of medicines. 1872.
6. A field dentist at work during World War I. 1915.
7. At an outpatient dental clinic in India, a dentist extracts a tooth while the assistant holds the patient’s hands. 1957.
8. U.S. Coast Guard personnel provide medical and dental care to the Alaskan natives in the isolated village of Stebbins, pulling a tooth for one of the native women. 1950.
9. Orthodonture machine. 1952.
10. A Persian dentist extracts a tooth from a squatting patient. Date unspecified.
11. Copy of Roman dental bridge found in Teano, Southern Italy. These makeshift dentures were made with other people’s teeth.
12. Image from a textbook showing dental treatment of a girl with hereditary syphilis. 1910.
13. A dentist extracts a tooth from a patient on stage. 1817.
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