What Did People Do in Ancient Times for Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that typically emerge in early adulthood. These teeth can cause discomfort and pain, and in many cases, they need to be removed.

But what did people do in ancient times for wisdom teeth? Let’s explore some of the historical practices and beliefs surrounding this dental issue.

Ancient Remedies for Wisdom Teeth

In ancient times, people didn’t have access to the modern dental care we have today. As a result, they had to rely on natural remedies to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by wisdom teeth. Some of the most common remedies included:

  • Chewing on herbs: Many cultures believed that chewing on certain herbs could help reduce pain and inflammation. For example, Native Americans used willow bark, which contains salicylic acid (the active ingredient in aspirin), to relieve toothaches.
  • Oil pulling: This ancient Ayurvedic practice involves swishing oil (such as sesame or coconut oil) around in your mouth for several minutes to remove toxins and bacteria.

    Some people believed that oil pulling could help reduce pain associated with wisdom teeth.

  • Clove oil: Clove oil has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for toothaches. It contains eugenol, a compound that has both analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cultural Beliefs About Wisdom Teeth

Many cultures throughout history have had their own beliefs about wisdom teeth. In some cases, these beliefs were tied to spiritual or supernatural beliefs.

For example, in ancient China, it was believed that wisdom teeth were connected to the kidneys. If someone experienced pain or discomfort from their wisdom teeth, it was thought to indicate an imbalance in their body’s energy (known as qi). To restore balance, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners might use acupuncture or other treatments.

Similarly, in some Native American cultures, wisdom teeth were seen as a sign of maturity and wisdom. The emergence of these teeth was celebrated with a special ceremony or ritual.

Historical Practices for Removing Wisdom Teeth

In the past, when natural remedies failed to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by wisdom teeth, people had to resort to more drastic measures. Here are a few examples of historical practices for removing wisdom teeth:

  • Using forceps: As early as the 16th century, dentists were using forceps to extract teeth. This involved gripping the tooth firmly with the forceps and pulling it out.
  • Using a dental key: In the 18th century, a new device called a dental key was invented.

    This tool was used to grip the tooth and rotate it back and forth until it came loose.

  • Tying a string around the tooth: Some people attempted to remove their own wisdom teeth by tying a string around the affected tooth and yanking it out. This method was not only painful but also risky since it could cause infection or damage surrounding teeth.


While we may cringe at some of these ancient practices for dealing with wisdom teeth, they offer an interesting glimpse into how people coped with dental issues in the past. Fortunately, today we have access to safe and effective methods for managing wisdom teeth discomfort. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort from your wisdom teeth, be sure to consult your dentist for advice on how best to manage your symptoms.