As a cosmetic dentist, we know that many people view this type of dentistry as a more recent innovation. On the other hand, there are those that might argue that dentistry itself, as a whole, owes its very beginnings to the practices and there for the art of cosmetic dentistry. When you consider that people have been looking for brighter whiter smiles since time immemorial and that the first quests involving teeth were to replace them or keep them whiter, it is not a far leap to imagine that cosmetic dentistry and its practice areas are, in fact, the very genesis for all of dentistry.
Cosmetic dentistry can trace its roots back to early procedures that were done with the intention of restoring lost teeth as far back as the 700’s B.C. Some of the most interesting archeological finds, from a cosmetic dentistry standpoint, however, comes from ancient Mayan sites where it has been found that medicine men routinely engaged in dental implant surgery. The “teeth” were made of carved shells and were hammered into the jawbone to make them permanent. For all intents and purposes, this was the first cosmetic dental surgery that we know of.
If you look at some of the other tools that we use for dental restorations, many of them have an interesting history as well. For example, the ancient Etruscans were fabricating dentures as early as around 700 B.C. These primitive dentures were made out of ivory and bone. The replacement teeth themselves were actually the teeth of animals or other human beings. Human teeth were highly prized and were harvested either from dead bodies or from living donors. The idea, of using the teeth that belonged to a dead person, would certainly be unpopular today, but it was revolutionary for the day, and the practice remained in effect until the 1800’s. There were problems with these dentures to be sure. They would have smelled atrocious, and more than likely would have deteriorated very rapidly after they were removed from the original host. Despite that, people were willing to give it a try just to have the ability to chew and speak without the difficulty of lost teeth. Thankfully, as a modern cosmetic dentist we can replace teeth using composite materials that look natural while being both durable and sanitary.
Perhaps the most popular trend, which has continued down through the ages, is the whitening of teeth. This has been around for a very long time, with some records showing ancient Egyptians using a mixture of pumice stone and vinegar to whiten their teeth by removing the stains. The most interesting and perhaps the most disgusting, were the ancient Romans. The ancient Romans came up with a paste, which contained urine, to brush with. While the inclusion of urine sounds disgusting today, it was an effective way to keep the teeth white since ammonia is a natural whitening agent. These pastes were so effective that they remained in circulation, and relatively popular, until the 19th century.
Whether whitening teeth or finding a way to replace teeth that were lost, cosmetic dentistry has been at the forefront of the fight for healthy teeth. Dentists all over the world continue to work with patients for a brighter, more straight, and beautiful smile. As a cosmetic dentist, we have these ancient procedures to thank for the initial procedures that led to modern innovations.