History of the First Dentist

Ancient Egypt was influential in the pioneering of medical and dental fields into the world. Specifically, the Egyptians focused greatly on their overall health, and it was believed that their life expectancy was longer than in any other part of the world. However, erosion was still a common problem that lead to the development of many treatments for the several oral infections that bothered them. Because dental conditions can be deadly if left untouched, it was critical for Ancient Egyptians to create and improve dental practices.

Hesy-Re was the first known dentist and was instrumental in the advancement of the dental techniques we use today. During the third dynasty of Egypt, Hesy-Re was not only a royal physician to Pharaoh Djoser, but a government official and scribe. His greatest title was the ‘Chief of Physicians and Dentists,’ indicating that there was a degree of medical specialization during this early stage of history of Ancient Egypt.

In particular, Hesy-Re was known to practice dentistry on the peasant laborers working on the pyramids. When treating infections, Hesy-Re would drill holes directly into the teeth of his patients. This drilling directly contributed to advanced dental techniques, such as root canal therapy. But, this procedure would have been very painful because anesthesia was not yet designed.

Because of his influence in medical advancements and his relationship with the Pharaoh, Hesy-Re was given an especially ornate tomb. Hieroglyphics depicting various doctor postures and positions adorn the tomb, including detailed engravings of medical instruments.

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