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Dentistry in ancient Mesopotamia was part of medicine. Much of the medical and dental history has been preserved as far back as 2800 B.C. The Assyrian and Babylonian wrote about it in their clay tablets. The Code of Hammurabi (c. 1900 B.C.) sheds light on medical history. It shows that as far back as 2500 B.C. the medical profession (including dentistry) was regulated by the central govern-ment; the profession had considerable prestige; fees were government regulated and based on the patient's position and rank; and penalties were established for malpractice or unsuccessful treatment.
The Earliest Concept of the Cause of Toothache: The Toothworm The earliest explanation of the cause of toothache and prescription for its cure is inscribed on a tablet from Nineveh, and now is in the British Museum. This tablet is known as The Legend of the Toothworm and reads as follows:
After Anu had created the heavens, The heavens created the earth,The earth created the rivers, The rivers created the brooks, The brooks created the swamps,The swamps created the worm, Then came the worm before Shamash (the Sun God) Before Ea (the God of the Deep) came her tears: "What willst thou give me to eat and destroy? "Ripe figs will I give thee." "What good are ripe figs to me? Take me up and let me reside between the teeth and the gums, so that I may destroy the blood of the tooth and ruin their strength; the roots of the tooth I will eat." "Since thou hast said this, Worm, May Ea strike the with the power of her fist; This is the magic ritual: Mix together beer, the sa-kil-bir plant, and oil. Then repeat the magic formula thrice and place the mixture on the tooth."
The Babylonian-Assyrian pharmacopoeia contained 250 medicinal plants, 120 mineral substances and 180 other drugs not yet identified. Two prescriptions from ancient Assyria-Babylonia are important in the history of oral hygiene. The first was intended to remove film and deposits on the teeth, whiten discolored teeth and prevent bad breath. A mixture of "salt of Akkad, ammi, Lolium, and pine turpentine". The mixture was applied to the teeth and then rubbed with the finger. Then the mouth was to be rinsed with a mixture of "kurunnu-beer, oil and honey". The second prescription describes a method of cleaning the mouth -- in particular when an individual has "mouth trouble". It reads, "If a man's mouth has mouth trouble, thou shalt mix Lolium in well water, introduce salt, alum, and vinegar therein. Thou shalt leave it under the stars. In the morning, thou shalt wind a linen round his forefinger; without a meal thou shalt cleanse his mouth"

 


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