The Etruscans – the Golden Age of ancient dentistry?
After the Romans came the Etruscans – and they had dentistry techniques that would not be seen for another 1,000 years. Above all, they were pioneers in dental appliances, fillings and bridges. While their predecessors might have balked at the indignity of losing real teeth and then replacing them with false ones, Etruscan dentists had no such reservations. And, thanks to the pleasing aesthetics of the false teeth of the time, their services were evidently extremely popular too.
The Etruscans were, for their time, incredibly enlightened. And this meant it was not a bad time to go to the dentist. During this time, dentists were learned men, often trained in medicine, rather than blacksmiths or barbers. They had a pretty good understanding of oral hygiene. Above all, they were pioneers in fillings and bridges. Putting to good use all the knowledge Etruscan scientists had either developed at home or taken from their travels abroad, the dentists would fill cavities with gold. Additionally, mummies from the time show that gold bands would be wrapped around the teeth and then soldered into place. These are the earliest examples of dental bridges.
But, of course, it wasn’t all progressive. All dental procedures would have been carried out without any anaesthetic. What’s more, any false teeth put in by dentists, even if they were held in by fine gold, would actually have been real teeth. Etruscan dentists would have used teeth pulled from slaves or criminals to fit into the mouths of richer patients. Or they would have taken teeth from corpses. There’s even evidence to suggest that animal teeth were used to fill gaps in human mouths. Clearly, while progress had been made, this was not a great time to need the help of a dentist!