Extracting Roman Roots of Dentistry

Daily Mail (London), February 4, 2017 | Go to article overview

Extracting Roman Roots of Dentistry


QUESTION Was dentistry practised in Roman times? IN 1987, in a drain beneath a shop being excavated in Rome's ancient Forum, 86 teeth were found. All had cavities. These were later dated to the 1st century AD and provide evidence that the premises were used as a dental practice. The shop was at the base of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, and it may be that the twin deities were associated with dentistry.

Roman medicine, following from Greek traditions, was quite advanced. Operations such as amputations and Caesarean sections, catheter insertions and gynaecological examinations were practised, so basic dentistry would be well within their capabilities.

However, it would have been limited to tooth extraction and herbal pain relief.

The 86 teeth showed little damage resulting from their removal, and bioarchaeologist Marshall Becker concluded the dentist who removed them was quite skilled.

The 450BC Roman Law of the Twelve Tables shows teeth were highly valued, stating: 'Whoever shall cause the tooth of a free man to be knocked out shall pay a fine of three hundred as.' Ancient toothpaste recipes also exist, going back to the ancient Greeks, who first used mint. …

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