Dental health and disease in ancient Egypt

  title={Dental health and disease in ancient Egypt},
  author={Roger Forshaw},
In ancient Egypt the exceptionally dry climate together with the unique burial customs has resulted in the survival of large numbers of well-preserved skeletal and mummified remains. Examinations of these remains together with an analysis of the surviving documentary, archaeological and ethnographic evidence has enabled a detailed picture of the dental health of these ancient people to be revealed, perhaps more so than for any other civilisation in antiquity. In this, the first of two articles… 

Dentists, dentistry and dental diseases in ancient Egypt

The rationale and history of palaeodontology and palaeopathology is introduced which holistically blankets these two disciplines as a necessary science in human anthropology.


Dental pathology, in all its demeanours, is shown to have a direct and indirect effect on the demography of the population of ancient Egypt and how other dental diseases are closely related to wearing down of teeth is shown.

Paleohealth based on dental pathology and cribra orbitalia from the ancient Egyptian settlement of Qau

Overall, based on the Qau people in this data, it can be assumed that the health status was poor, the death rate of newborns, infants, and young children was high, and individuals exhibiting severe stress markers died before reaching adulthood.


The medical papyri's dental entries will demonstrate that dentists were mainly focussed on diagnoses and that the science was mostly pharmacopoeial in nature, providing pharmacotherapy and magical incantations.

A Ptolemaic mummy reveals evidence of invasive dentistry in ancient Egypt

An interproximal carious cavity packed with protective material is found in this Ptolemaic mummy, the second case of dental packing in the literature among ancient Egyptian mummies studied to date, and may indicate a common dental intervention performed by ancient Egyptians.


The teeth and skulls of two ancient Egyptian mummies, the ‘Two Brothers’ located in the Manchester Museum have recently been re-examined and analysis of the DNA from their molar teeth has shed some light on the longstanding question of the kinship of these two mummies.

Reduction of temporomandibular joint dislocation: an ancient technique that has stood the test of time

Today, mandibular joint dislocation is probably not that common but to be included in an important ancient Egyptian treatise, predominately concerned with trauma to the head and neck, could suggest it was a more frequent occurrence in antiquity.

Task activity and tooth wear in a woman of ancient Egypt

The Two Brothers: an enlightening study of ancient Egyptian teeth

Analysis of the DNA from their molar teeth has been able to shed some light on the longstanding question of the kinship of the Two Brothers.



Dental health in ancient Egypt

  • J. Miller
  • Medicine
    Journal of Biological Research - Bollettino della Società Italiana di Biologia Sperimentale
  • 1970
The Ancient Egyptians suffered from devastating dental disease through the millennia and this may have caused premature mortality, and examples of caries, premature loss of teeth and abscesses will be shown.

Teeth and Bread in Ancient Egypt

  • F. Leek
  • Medicine
    The Journal of Egyptian archaeology
  • 1972
Examination of ancient skulls taken from cemeteries dating from pre-dynastic until Ptolemaic times reveals the fact that the fundamental cause of dental disease at that time was widely different from the origin of dental Disease in modern man.

The practice of dentistry in ancient Egypt

It is suggested that operative dental treatment if it did exist at all was extremely limited and the dental treatment that appears to have been provided was mainly restricted to pharmaceutical preparations that were either applied to the gingival and mucosal tissues or used as mouthwashes.

Observations on the Dental Pathology Seen in Ancient Egyptian Skulls

  • F. Leek
  • Medicine
    The Journal of the Dental Association of South Africa = Die Tydskrif van die Tandheelkundige Vereniging van Suid-Afrika
  • 1967
It is now recognized that examples of caries, the most prevalent disease of the teeth, existed in skulls of much earlier populations, and there is growing evidence that caries was not so uncommon even as far back as the upper Palaeolithic times.

The Practice of Dentistry in Ancient Egypt

  • F. Leek
  • Medicine
    The Journal of Egyptian archaeology
  • 1967
The examination of a selection of skulls of the New Kingdom shows clearly that the sufferer was indeed fortunate that only one tooth was affected and it is necessary to consider some aspects of dental pathology.

An Appraisal of the Skulls and Dentition of Ancient Egyptians, Highlighting the Pathology and Speculating on the Influence of Diet and Environment

The study aims to trace trends in dental health through this period and relate findings to documentary and archaeological evidence for changes in diet.

Periodontal disease in ancient populations.

The findings of the present study demonstrate that generalized horizontal periodontitis has been unusual and has not been responsible for tooth loss.