Mayans and Dentistry

The Mayans practiced a form of modern dentistry and were very advanced for their time. These ancient dentists filled cavities, cleaned tartar with copper instruments and removed teeth. What is even more remarkable is that they had names for every procedure and tooth. In the present day, when we have a dental procedure we rinse our mouths out after with a saline solution. Did you know that the Mayans thousands of year ago also used to do this? This just shows how forward-thinking and sophisticated their level of dentistry really was.

Ancient Mayan dentists used a bow drill to perform procedures. The drill was made from metal, mounted on a shaft and was then rotated by the bow. It was the main tools that the Mayans used to carry out various dental procedures. They were so skilled with this tool, that they could carefully carve into a tooth without generating an infection, break a tooth or provoke the loss of a tooth.

What Dentistry did the Mayans Focus On? 

The most popular form of Mayan dentistry was not for corrective or restorative dental procedures. Instead the dental skills they had devised were mainly for religious or ritual purposes. They would use their skills to place stunningly carved stone inlays, in precisely prepared cavities, cutting a perfect hole around the tooth enamel. These inlays were made of minerals such as; turquoise, quartz, cinnabar, serpentine and jadeite. Two different types of adhesives were used to secure the inlays including liquid amber and the other from the maguey plant. Archaeologists have found that due to the gems used, the inlays were mainly confined for the upper classes. Typically, the inlays were found in the upper and lower teeth and were for aesthetic purposes.

Dentistry and Fashion

The Mayas also carried out other forms of fashion statements with their teeth, to boost the appearance of their smile. Women were known to dye their teeth red or black and it was said that many Mayan men didn’t like coloured teeth. The red dye was derived from insects and was named cochineal. Other aesthetic procedures included filing their teeth in different ways. It is not completely known what the significant reasons for this are, but it is thought that it was possibly done for tribal or religious meaning. Archaeologists have discovered more than fifty different patterns.

Nowadays popular cosmetic dental procedures that are carried out do not involve inserting gems into a patients tooth. Contact the surgery today, to discuss some of the most up-to-date procedures.

Learn more about ancient civilisation dental methods by reading our Ancient Egyptian guide. Alongside this guide, we have put together a summary of fun facts about your mouth - with a much more modern take!

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