Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 07 December 2022



  • Ludwig Edelstein
  •  and V. Nutton


Dentistry in antiquity was part of general *medicine; diseases of the teeth were explained and treated in accordance with the theories on other diseases. The operative technique was excellent (the Hippocratic treatment of the fracture of the mandible is famous; see Hippocrates (2)); extractions were performed at an early date. The methods of preserving the teeth, however, consisted mainly of medicinal and dietetic means; fillings for that purpose were unknown. Loose teeth were fastened with gold wire (Hippoc Περὶ ἄρθρων 32; Twelve Tables 10. 8). Toothache being considered a chronic disease and one of the greatest torments (Celsus, Med. 6. 9), hygienic prescriptions were extensively advocated. Cleansing of the teeth with tooth-powder, the toothpick (dentiscalpium), chewing (σχινίζειν τοὺς ὀδόντας) were recommended in addition to innumerable remedies against bad breath, a favourite topic of Latin epigrammatists. False teeth were set, but only by technicians, the artificial teeth being carved from ivory or other animal teeth. Such prostheses, used by the *Etruscans and Romans, served primarily to hide physical defects and to correct deficiencies of speech, but had probably to be removed before meals.


  • Science, Technology, and Medicine

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription