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History of Dentistry:
Toothsome Tales & Oral Oddities
from Babylon to Braces
(By James Wynbrandt.
First published 1998.)
James Wynbrandt, appropriately enough, is a comedy writer and not a dentist, endodontist, orthodontist or any other kind of tooth nut. Remember the most famous scene in “Little Shop of Horrors”? It takes a comedian! Some of the wacky facts you will learn in this book are: Among the ancients, it was commonly believed that toothworms caused decay and toothache; to prevent toothache, Pliny the Elder advised eating a mouse twice a month; and the mouthwash recommended by tooth-drawers, barber-surgeons and the father of dentistry himself, Pierre Fauchard, was (are you ready?) urine. Yum!
From these early days, Wynbrandt proceeds through the centuries to show that extraction and bloodletting were but a couple of the common treatments for mouth pain. Queen Elizabeth I, for example, had her entire mouth of hideous black teeth pulled in order to relieve toothache — and also to improve her looks.
The farther into this book you read about the tricks of the trade, the more astounded you’ll be that dentistry as a profession ever managed to achieve any semblance of esteem from the public.
A warning for the pun-weary: As you might deduce from the subtitle (not to mention a couple of chapter titles: “Licensed to Drill” and “Is There a Dentatore in the House?”), this book is loaded with wordplay. —Mary Welp