Dental Diseases and their Treatment in Ancient Egypt
Modern historians investigate Ancient Egyptian treatment of dental disorders since mid–twentieth century. This research is conducted on the basis of archaeological discoveries of human remains and of dental bridges, not to mention the iconographical depictions, and written sources, including recipes for tooth painkillers preserved on papyrus rolls.
Investigations of the remains of ancient Egyptians reveal traces of dental disorders known from contemporary medical practice. A characteristic feature of the dental condition of the Egyptians was the grinding down of teeth, probably due to the presence of sand, which in local conditions constantly found its way into the mouth: from the dust in the air, and probably from small additions of sand to the bread, which constituted the main foodstuff of the population.
Opinions of the researchers are divided as to the existence in ancient Egypt of dentistry similar to modern stomatology. M. Waracki argues however, that out of the 150 ancient Egyptian physicians known by name, seven used in their titles the hieroglyphic in the form of the elephant trunk, which points to their dental specialization. The most common job in their practice was prescribing and preparing medical compounds, which chewed by the patients reduced dental discomforts. The article includes Polish translations of 21such recipes preserved on five papyrus rolls.
The archaeological discoveries of dental bridges (four in Egypt; two located in Sidon, but ascribed to Egyptian burials) point to the existence of other dental care procedures too. These dental restorations were performed in such a way as to bind together with golden or silver wire the teeth which fell out and those, which were still healthy; tiny holes were drilled through the fallen out teeth in order to help keep together the reconstruction. A tooth–implant has also been discovered. The iconographical materials, which, according to some historians, depict dentist tools, are less conclusive.