The Mayans loved to add bling to their smiles
The Mayans were pretty advanced in their approach to dental health. In fact, like modern-day dentists, they had a name for every tooth in the human mouth and they recognised the need to carry out proactive care rather than waiting for a tooth to decay and cause a bigger problem. What’s more, Mayan dental surgeons were also incredibly skilled. Despite the fact they only used bow saws for their surgery, the evidence suggests that they could target individual teeth, take care of localised problems and even fix cavities without damaging other teeth or spreading infection. After surgery, patients were advised to wash their mouths out regularly with saline solution – pretty much the same advice dentists give today.
However, dental health and hygiene was just a small part of the Mayan dentist’s job. This culture was very fond of dental bling, and would evidently go to great lengths – and endure significant amounts of pain – to get that perfect smile. The same bow drills used for surgery were used to make small holes in the front teeth into which small jewels or other precious stones were inserted – all done, of course, without the use of proper anaesthetic.
At the same time, many Mayan men and women would dye their teeth, again for purely aesthetic reasons. Black and red were the most common, though archaeologists have so far found more than 50 different patterns dyed onto the teeth of deceased Mayans. Women were especially likely to use dye made from crushed insects to color their teeth.