Dentistry is a medical specialty that includes the prevention, detection and treatment of diseases in the dental, oral and maxillofacial area.
The field overlaps in part with the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery and otorhinolaryngology, but also with other fields, as pathological changes in the oral cavity often affect the rest of the body. Conversely, many diseases (e.g. blood diseases, cancer, infections) show symptoms, often as initial symptoms, in the oral cavity. Forensic dentistry is used to identify corpses by means of the dentition.
As early as 3000 B.C. teeth were treated in the area of the Indus culture. Among the first verifiable dental interventions are mainly the therapy of toothache, but also the closing of gaps in the front teeth. In the sixteenth century B.C., the papyrus boars from Egypt gave instructions on dental treatment, among other things. Not only since the Middle Ages did people have the idea that a worm that eats through the tooth causes dental diseases. Tormenting toothache was cured until 1829 with the branding iron to chew on caries and nerves. Most patients lost consciousness during this treatment. Arsenic paste was used to kill the exposed pulp (in layman’s terms: nerve). The patient was thus relieved of pain. Ether, chloroform and laughing gas were also known. Cocaine was later used to supplement the painkillers. In 1905, the later Hoechst AG brought Novocaine, developed by Alfred Einhorn, onto the market, which for a long time held a dominant position in local anaesthesia (dentistry).
The patron saint of dentists is St. Apollonia.
For centuries, at the end of the day, frayed wooden sticks sprinkled with alkaline ashes, ginger, Bengal pepper or soaked in alum were used to clean the teeth. The first toothbrushes probably date back to the early 16th century, often in the form of bony sticks with stiff pig bristles attached to the front end. In the Middle Ages and the following centuries, teeth were not extracted by academically trained doctors, but by craftsmen, mostly by bathers or, especially since the 14th century, “tooth breakers” or “tooth pullers” who appeared as itinerant healers. Specialists practiced their profession with the help of various instruments, but there were also market criers and charlatans whose interest lay mainly in making money and whose reputation was doubtful. Before the possibility of anaesthesia (narcosis) of the patient was available or local anaesthesia of his teeth was possible, the dentist had to work very quickly.