8 Weird and Wonderful Facts About the History of Teeth

Teeth are truly fascinating things, and so is their history. We all know the importance of looking after them now, but our knowledge and understanding of oral health has undergone a remarkable journey. Here are 10 weird and wonderful facts about the history of teeth.

  • The first known toothbrush can be dated back as far as 4000 BC, when the Hindus of India would use the end of a fresh twig, frayed into fibres, to clean their teeth.
  • From ancient times to the beginning of the 18th century, it was widely thought that a worm residing inside the teeth was what caused tooth decay and all its associated pain. Then in 1960, Doctor Paul Keyes discovered that tooth decay was in fact caused by bacteria known as Streptococcus Mutans.
  • The hardest substance produced by our body is the enamel that coats our teeth. But just how this unique mineral compound evolved has had scientists and historians perplexed for centuries. Recent findings have linked enamel to prehistoric fish, whose bones and scales may have contained traces, which then made its way to their teeth.
  • The Mayans are known for their advanced thinking and this included their aptitude for dentistry. They would reshape their teeth and even fit jewels into small holes. What is most impressive is their skill for drilling without breaking the teeth. There is evidence of them using implants too.
  • Before the days of professional dentistry, people would resort to going to whoever had the tools to perform the task. This meant that the average blacksmith or barber was likely to carryout most of the local dental work.
  • The first known use of dental records to identify victims of mass disaster was the fire at the Vienna Opera House in 1878. Another tragic fire in Paris in 1897 prompted the writing of the first textbook of forensic dentistry.
  • According to many scholars and historians, dental braces came into existence around 2022–2030 BC. However, we do know that some time between 400–300 BC, Hippocrates and Aristotle were contemplating ways to straighten teeth and fix various dental problems.
  • Toothpaste has been in use since around 5,000 BC, and has always had the same purpose – to clean teeth and gums, to whiten teeth, and to freshen the breath. Ingredients have included everything from powdered ox hooves, to burnt eggshells and various herbs.

The history of dentistry highlights the importance of looking after your everyday life! When was the last time you visited the dentist? If you think it might be time for a check up contact your local practice.


The health, safety and well-being of all of our patients is our top priority and we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure this. We are continuing to undertake a number of additional cleaning procedures, so the highest possible hygiene standards are upheld throughout the practices at all times. It is our intention to remain OPEN and continue to offer dental services including all emergency services to both our existing patients and any other patients in need of treatment. This will be subject to evolving government and NHS advice. Please contact your nearest practice for availability either by phone or email. We do ask that if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with anyone with confirmed Coronavirus to please call NHS 111 before making or attending your appointment.
+ +