Tooth decay, tooth disintegration and infection has always been present in society, but today's dentistry standards provide comfort and pain-free relief to the patient, which has not always been so readily available.
In ancient times, it was thought that the cause of dental pain was the work of 'tooth worms' who burrowed little holes into the tooth and hid inside. This view was held up until the early 1700s, when it was eventually proven false. In ancient Greece, philosophers Hippocrates and Aristotle documented the early extraction of teeth, not just as a dental remedy but as a cure for other ailments.
Other dental remedies from the ancient times included a hole being drilled into the infected tooth and an ointment of roasted earthworms, the crushed eggs of spiders and spikenard placed inside the hole!
Cosmetic dentistry also evolved as the demand for 'beautiful' teeth increased during the Mayan age, where the wealthy would pay to have holes drilled or grooves carved into their teeth, then filled with precious gems attached using a natural adhesive.
In medieval England, oral health became the responsibility of the 'barber surgeons', who were predominantly barbers but also part-time (and partially qualified) dentists. As advertisement of their dental trade, the barber surgeons hung rows of rotten teeth outside their shops. It was also around this time that the demand for dental implants began in England, as many members of the elite society deemed it unsightly to be seen with missing teeth.
For a price, 'living' teeth would be extracted from the mouths of willing donors, and the wealthy patron would pick the best tooth to have implanted into his or her mouth.
For less wealthy patrons, teeth would be extracted from the mouths of the dead to be implanted into the mouths of less wealthy customers. Indeed, it became common practice to remove the full set of teeth from the mouth of the dead person, and save the teeth for future dental implantation.
At this time, anaesthetic was generally limited to alcohol and mixtures of herbs and berries, but there is also evidence that the ancient Chinese used an early form of acupuncture as an effective dental pain relief.
During the early 1900s, the anaesthetic drug Novocain was administered as a trial method of pain relief and then went on to become a popular dental anaesthetic. After that, effectively administered anaesthesia was expected by patients during dental surgery, and, as per today's standards, dental practitioners were required to take and pass dental examinations!