For most of human history, tooth problems were a terrible fact of life. Ancient Spartan warriors would charge into battle with oozy abscesses in their gums. High-society women in 18th-century France would politely cover their rotting teeth with hankies when they smiled. George Washington only had one tooth left by the time he became President — a fact that bothered him greatly. The journey to modern dentistry may seem like a horror movie that features a colorful cast of characters and many bizarre treatments that often hurt patients more than they helped.
Humans have been trying to fix their smiles for thousands of years. Scientists believe that humans had few dental problems before people started farming grains like wheat and corn, about 10,000 years ago. That’s due to the fact that grains break down into sugar, which causes cavities. The bristle toothbrush was invented in China in 1498. The bristles were made of hair from the back of a hog’s neck. Fortunately, today’s bristles are made of nylon. Modern dentistry has been a great human achievement, and it is even still changing. Exciting new technologies are continually being developed to make dental care more convenient and affordable.