Sunday, October 14, 2012



GOING to the dentist is an ordeal even today, but in ancient times it was often a matter of life or death.

Without modern antibiotics, an abcessed tooth could result in a runaway infection which could spread to the sinuses, ears, eyes and brain, resulting in agony and death.

Now, for the first time, there is evidence that ancient dentists did their best to provide invasive medicine to fight infections inside teeth, according to a report in London's DAILY MAIL.

Scientists performing CT scans on the head of an Egyptian mummy say they have found one of the worst cases of dental problems ever seen - and a unique treatment to try and treat it.

Researchers CT scanning a 2,100 year old mummy were stunned to find evidence of a sinus infection caused by a mouthful of cavities and other tooth problems.

The also came across a unique find - a cavity filled with linen.

Using a piece of linen, which may have first been dipped in a medicine such as fig juice or cedar oil, a form of 'packing' in the biggest and most painful cavity, located on the left side of his jaw between the first and second molars, was inserted.

This acted as a barrier to prevent food particles from getting into the cavity, with any medicine on the linen helping to ease the pain, the study researchers said.

The man, whose name is unknown, was in his 20s or early 30s, and lived at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of Greek kings.

Andrew Wade, at the University of Western Ontario, used new high-resolution CT scans of his teeth and body, according to the International Journal of Paleopathology.

Researchers said this is the first known case of such packing treatment done on an ancient Egyptian.

"The dental treatment, filling a large inter-proximal cavity [a cavity between two teeth] with a protective, likely medicine-laden, barrier is a unique example of dental intervention in ancient Egypt,' the team writes in their journal article.

"The dental packing described here is unique among ancient Egyptian mummies studied to date, and represents one of only a few recorded dental interventions in ancient Egypt.

The young wealthy man from Thebes was in the prime of life when his dental problem hit, researchers believe.

The man, whose name is unknown, was in his 20s or early 30s, and had "numerous" abscesses and cavities, conditions that appear to have resulted, at some point, in a sinus infection, something potentially deadly, the study researchers said. 

Despite the efforts of the physicians, he died soon afterward.

His mummy now "resides"  in the Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montreal.


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