Dental care in ancient Egypt

Sep 22, 2010

Dental care in ancient Egypt

Numerous papyri enumerate prescriptions to dental diseases, such as pyorrhea, loose teeth, dental caries and abscesses. Surgically produced holes to drain an abscess under the 1st molar were found in the mandible of a 4th dynasty mummy (2625 - 2510 BC). A loose tooth fixed with a gold wire bridge to a neighboring sound tooth was discovered in another mummy of the same dynasty in Giza. Artificial teeth holding a maxillary bridge by a silver wire was also found in the late period (Greco-Roman). Tooth extraction, treatment of mouth ulcers and treatment of jaw dislocation were dealt with in the Edwin Smith and Ebers Papyri.

The knowledge of the Egyptian physicians to chemistry was so vast that some would attribute the origin of the word “chemistry” to “Kemet”, the ancient name of Egypt. Drugs of different sources were used. Mineral, as sulfur, antimony and zinc were used especially in eye and skin ointments. Animal products, as ox meat and liver as well as more than 160 plants (many still in use) were used in the form of pills, powders or suppositories (rectal and vaginal). Among the common plants used were senna, sycamore, castor oil, acacia gum, mint and linseed. Yeast was used for indigestion and externally for leg ulcers.
Prescriptions were too far from primitive, almost sticking to the same guidelines physicians apply today. The dosage was adjusted to patient’s age

“If it is a big child, he should swallow it like a draught, if he is still in swaddles, it should be rubbed by his nurse in milk and thereafter sucked on 4 days”. The timing of administration was not disregarded in a prescription “… and the eye is painted therewith in the evening, its other half is dried, finely ground, and the eye is painted therewith in the morning”.

The duration of treatment in the Smith Papyrus was considered as “until he recovers”, “until the period of his injury passes by” or “until thou knowst that he has reached decision point”. In the Ebers Papyrus, the duration was more specified.

During the pyramid building, workers were given enormous amounts of radish, garlic and onion. Herodotus has mentioned in his second book, Euterpe:

“There is an inscription in Egyptian characters on the pyramid which records the quantity of radishes, onions, and garlic consumed by the laborers who constructed it; and I perfectly well remember that the interpreter who read the writing to me said that the money expended in this way was 1600 talents of silver”.

Only during the 20th century AD when an antibiotic preparation (Raphanin) has been extracted from radish, and Allicin and Allistatin from garlic and onion. A wise procedure undertaken in such an overcrowded camp.

The Egyptians have learned enemas from the Ibis, with its long beak with which it pushes water into its rectum to evacuate the bowel.

3 comments:

Preston Dental Care September 24, 2010 at 8:19 AM  

This is very helpful. It is also important to teach your child not to eat to much candies for it can cause harm to their teeth. Prevention is always better than cure!

Naina Raymundo October 9, 2010 at 4:28 AM  

Great post!I have learned a lot, even those times tooth extraction are practiced but done brutally... What was amazing is they are using gold wire to connect the teeth... Keep on writing interesting article... :)

Anonymous,  November 8, 2010 at 1:38 AM  

great post also!

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