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Fun Facts for Kids – The Strange History of Medieval Dental Care

June 29th, 2015
teeth in medieval times cartoon

In previous posts we’ve looked at ancient teeth and the start of modern dentistry. Today we’re going to bridge the gap and take a brief look at medieval dentistry.

In medieval times, if you had a problem with your teeth you went to your local barber-surgeon. They did everything from cutting hair to bloodletting to amputating limbs!

Surgery was considered a separate discipline from medicine and since barbers already had the right tools they often doubled up their skills to make more money. You might have gone in to get a haircut and then had a rotten tooth pulled while you were there. What convenience!

There were also homemade recipes you could try if you had a toothache during the medieval period. These were usually simple herbal poultices that you put on your mouth and jaw. Unlike many medieval recipes, these ones probably wouldn’t kill you.

If that didn’t work you could always try a charm! These usually involved saying phrases to encourage your teeth to grow nice and straight or to get rid of the worms in your mouth.

18th century ivory carving from Southern France known as “The Tooth Worm as Hell’s Demon”

A lot of beliefs about teeth and the formation of cavities carried over from antiquity – especially the belief in tooth worms. A common cure for toothaches or cavities was to fumigate your mouth. It was believed that smoke would kill off the worms or drive them away and you would be cured.

Luckily for us, we can go to the dentist and not have to worry about whether he’s a better barber than a dentist!


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