Weird History: Blacksmiths and Barbers were the Village Dentists

Dental ProfessionThe dental profession is a relatively new one. Licensed dentists only began practising a mere 150 years ago in London. Before the development of dentistry as a regulated medical profession, the job of providing dental care fell to barbers and blacksmiths.

Barbers and blacksmiths were skilled with metal tools, so they were the best choice for having your tooth extracted during the Medieval Ages. There were no regulations, and anyone can choose to offer dental treatments. This is a far cry from modern dental practices like Smiledesigndental.co.uk that adhere to strict guidelines set by the General Dental Council (GDC).

Barbers and Blacksmiths

In the past, anyone who was willing to extract teeth could choose to do so. Barbers, blacksmiths and even wigmakers were an obvious choice because they already had access to the metal tools needed to perform extractions.

In 1210, barber-surgeons were commonplace. They were the jack-of-all-trade of their time. Along with haircuts, they handle simple procedures that include bloodletting and tooth extractions. Some barbers would openly advertise their profession by hanging pulled teeth outside of their shop’s window.

Painful, Unsanitary Conditions

As you would expect, dentistry back then was a grim affair. Patients were subjected to painful treatments without the use of anaesthesia. The procedures were done in unsanitary conditions, often leading to infections and cross contamination. It was common for diseases like syphilis and tuberculosis to be transmitted from mouth to mouth.

The would-be dentists of the time would use crude tools such as forceps and dental keys to extract teeth. Dental keys forcefully rip the teeth from the jawbone, often pulling bone along with it and breaking the patient’s jaw.

We are lucky to live in a time when dentistry is an established profession. Instead of being an optional service of the village barber, dentists today focus on dental work exclusively, backed with years of training and experience.