Your cheeky guide to the dynasty

This Won’t Hurt a Bit … At Least, Not as Much as It Used To

As much as I love the past, there are several reasons (all medical-related) I feel fortunate not to live there. One is antibiotics. Two is pain relief. Three, four, five, and to infinity is dental care.

I don’t need hypnosis or sedatives to get through a dental cleaning, but I come close. I need the iPod, the yoga breathing, the “staring at the ceiling and intently counting all the dots,” the “just imagine all the people going through so much worse, including war.”

I’m often complimented on my naturally straight teeth (never had braces or other correction) but structurally they are awful! It’s genetic, I hear. I could brush, floss, and fluoridate constantly (and I do) but I usually need a filling or two, and have already had a root canal and crown. Ugh.

But it could be worse. My teeth could be in the 16th century, subject to this dental mouth gag. Or, in the unfortunate case of extraction, this dental pelican.

Then again, maybe hundreds of years from now people will give thanks that they no longer have to endure “barbaric” tools such as the dental drill or Hedstrom file. I leave you with Steve Martin’s old “Theodorick of York” skit from Saturday Night Live:

Dr. York, Medieval Barber/Surgeon: “Why just 50 years ago, we would have thought your daughter’s illness was brought on by demonic possession or witchcraft…”

(Much laughing from Dr. York and the patient’s mother at this ridiculous antiquated diagnosis )

“…But nowadays we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humours, perhaps caused by a toad or small dwarf living in her stomach.”

* has a nice article on 12th-14th century dentistry here.

* I’m fortunate to have a dentist who not only is great at what he does but who also follows my blog — Hi, Dr. Chang!



  Sarah Perry-Correia wrote @

I am grateful for these things but above all I am glad to be living in a time with safe childbirth. I’ve had three children and just thinking about all the children left motherless because the mother died in childbirth is very distressing. Even in later times, my great great great grandmother who was the mother of 2 little boys died from childbirth complications her baby died too and he was buried in her arms. this was in the 1850’s in Baltimore, MD- not so very long ago.

  Jonathan Chang wrote @

You are so funny! Thanks for the plug btw. I just wanted people to know that the premier national museum dedicated to dental history and oral health is right in our own back yard (ok, it’s in Baltimore, but pretty close)! It’s the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry. It may not be able to compete w/ Air & Space or American History, but as far as museums dedicated to health issues, it’s second to none.
-Jonathan Chang, DDS

  britophile wrote @

Ha! That’s great. I am definitely thankful for 21st century medicine.

I’ll have to watch that skit….

P.S. Can we please add indoor plumbing to that list of modern must-haves?


  SG wrote @

I agree with SPC about childbirth – not just motherless children, but childless mothers as well.

The survival expectation for a 20 year old in Tudor England was 51 years (ie. likely to live to 71), but the average life expectation was in the 30s. Child mortality.

Not sure about the dental care aspect. Ancient people (perhaps even Tudor peasants) had surprisingly good dental health. Owing perhaps to a diet that allowed enamel to re-mineralise.

Funny how after all the dentists’ advice young people, like TT, still need fillings. Not accusing the dentists, but maybe the advice doesn’t have the whole answer.

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