General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 4 Jun 2020/9 Wind
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Tartar removal before the Spanish invasion of Mexico

Aztec advances (8): tartar removal

This is the eighth in a series of entries based on information in the Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World by Emory Dean Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield (Facts on File, 2002). The image is a drawing by Miguel Covarrubias of a detail from a mural at Tepantitla, Teotihuacan. It probably depicts the filing of teeth. (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Cleaning the teeth; Florentine Codex Book 10. Note the charcoal...!
Cleaning the teeth; Florentine Codex Book 10. Note the charcoal...! (Click on image to enlarge)

‘Tartar is a hard, yellowish deposit on the teeth composed of food particles and secretions that are deposited salts such as calcium carbonate. The Aztecs... were removing tartar from teeth in pre-Columbian times. Hundreds of years ago ancient Aztec dentists removed tartar from their clients’ teeth with metal instruments. In his book Aztec Medicine, Health and Nutrition Bernard Ortiz de Montellano states, “Teeth were to be polished with charcoal (a good abrasive) and salt; occasionally tartar was removed by scraping with metal tools followed by further polishing.” This dental practice, although common in modern times, was not generally practiced in Europe at the time of conquest. European dentistry consisted mainly of extracting teeth.’

Picture sources:-
• Main pic: image scanned from La Odontología en el México Prehispánico by Samuel Fastlicht, self-published, Mexico City, 1971
• Image from the Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence) scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Dec 10th 2019

‘Dental and oral hygiene were taken seriously...’

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