Dental surgery in ancient Egypt

J Hist Dent. 2013 Winter;61(3):129-42.


Many different surgical procedures have over the years been attributed to the ancient Egyptians. This is also true regarding the field of dental surgery. The existence of dentists in ancient Egypt is documented and several recipes exist concerning dental conditions. However, no indications of dental surgery are found in the medical papyri or in the visual arts. Regarding the osteological material/mummies, the possible indications of dental surgery are few and weak. There is not a single example of a clear tooth extraction, nor of a filling or of an artificial tooth. The suggested examples of evacuation of apical abscesses can be more readily explained as outflow sinuses. Regarding the suggested bridges, these are constituted of one find likely dating to the Old Kingdom, and one possibly, but perhaps more likely, dating to the Ptolemaic era. Both seem to be too weak to have served any possible practical purpose in a living patient, and the most likely explanation would be to consider them as a restoration performed during the mummification process. Thus, while a form of dentistry did certainly exist in ancient Egypt, there is today no evidence of dental surgery.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Ancient Lands
  • Dental Prosthesis / history
  • Egypt, Ancient
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Oral Surgical Procedures / history*
  • Periapical Abscess / history
  • Tooth Extraction / history