Monday, 25 April 2005

London's 17th Century "Dentists"

If you are dreading a trip to the dentist think again. In 17th century London you had very good reason to. In those days you would be seen to by a man called the "Teeth Inspector", who could be found in fairs and market-places. He had absolutely no academic qualifications and firmly believed that cavities were caused by a worm that made it's lodging in your teeth. If you had a very bad toothache he would usually suggest cauterising the offending nerve with acid, which would also kill both birds with one stone by destroying the tooth as well. If your toothache was so bad that you were howling with pain he might consider extracting the tooth via the use of several grotesque-looking instruments. All this "treatment" was administered in public view and one can say it was seen as a kind of spectacle for curious passers-by.

If you complained that too many teeth had been extracted over the years and you wished you could replace them, the Teeth Inspector had a solution for that as well. He would offer you false teeth made of ivory, bone or even wood. These would be attached to neighboring teeth with wires or silk thread. We do not know how effective these "teeth" were, or if the person was able to eat with them or not, but we do know they were much in demand. The King of France was said to posses a set of these teeth and that they were fully functional, (but of course the French were known for making better teeth than the English at that time). One could also opt for human teeth too, (after the Plague there was an abundance of teeth available in the market).

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