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HISTORY BEHIND WOMEN DENTISTS

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drmithila's picture
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Joined: 14 May 2011

 Regardless of the fact that females have been present in every field of universal knowledge, history bears little trace of this fact. This points to cultural patterns that favor the accomplishments of men over women. This paper reports in a schematic way, on the presence and significance of dental practice by women worldwide, and in particular in Mexico.

The role of women since prehistoric times that of taking care of the family would lead them to see illness and to seek remedies for it. Since oral problems were so common these were given a fair amount of attention. We can learn about medical practice for women in ancient civilizations from paintings and engravings as well as other art forms. Literature and ceramics have been very helpful in this respect.

The Talmud, one of the sacred books of the Jews, mentions a woman who treated dental pain with expertise. In ancient Greece, there were numerous cases of women practicing medicine and related activities such as pharmaceutics. In the Roman Empire we find reference to women in different branches of medicine. For instance, the goddess, Meditrina,is immortalized in a beautiful sculpture now housed by the Musee des Antiquites Nationales de d'Saint Germain, France.

As for Japan, it is worthwhile mentioning, the case of the Buddhist priestess Nakaoka Tei, known as Hotokehime, or Lady of Buddha, who in the 14th century constructed an entire set of teeth for herself. This beautifully carved piece of cherry wood is on display in the Tokyo Museum as a discrete witness of the abilities and knowledge of this notable woman.

In this same museum, we find a document that describes the technique employed: a cast was made in beeswax to show the anatomy of the edentulous maxilla in order to carve in wood the missing pieces. To make adjustments along the way, color was applied to identify places that required prosthetics. It is imagined that this set of teeth was not the only one fabricated by the Lady of Buddha.

In regard to medieval European medicine, we present the case of the Abbess, Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1099-1179), who summarizes her knowledge of medical sciences in her book, "Liber Simplicis Medicinae." She makes reference to dental treatments based on herbs, and mentions the need to drain dental abscesses to facilitate the expulsion of pus. This manuscript is one of the most important treatises on the subject during the following centuries. (It is possible to buy copies of contemporary editions.)

During a large part of the Middle Ages, there was systematic prosecution of women in medicine. They were sentenced to die. This, obviously, limited the development of their activities. Many of the women who knew how to heal practiced this fearfully, and in secret, and as a consequence did not leave any trace of their activity. It was unthinkable that the female would have a place in the medicine lectures in Medieval and Renaissance universities such as Salerno, Bologna, Montpellier, Paris, Oxford or Salamanca-

In the medical book of Rolando de Parma (14th century), one can identify a woman placing a bandage around the jaw of a patient, possibly to stabilize a fracture. Female assistants undoubtedly frequently practiced in health services. Many times, doctors were assisted by their wives, daughters or sisters.

Phlebotomist-barbers proliferated in Europe in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and practiced bloodletting and dental extraction in public squares, fairs and roads with women assistants as is seen in many engravings of the period.

"cleanses rotting teeth, gets rid of bad odour, by its detergent and astringent qualities, it solidifies teeth, cures ulcers or small eruptions that affect gums and it dissipates scurvy humour ." 1The main area for female dental assistants in the 18th century was France. This is patent in a brief dentistry treatise of Mademoiselle Reze, that was printed a few years before Pierre Fauchard's "Le Chirugien Dentiste." Reze records all that she was capable of doing and recommended the use of a marvelous balm which:

In the 19th century cultures were far from  were far from accepting these practices as is patent in the 1775 law that prohibited women from practicing surgery However, the development that the sciences went through in France, motivated some women to break into dentistry. Such was the case of Madame Ana, who announced herself as "dentist for women," in a clinic on the Rue Rivoli in Paris. She was famous for having looked after the teeth of members of royalty like the Duchess of Angouleme and Mademoiselle Ellen d'Saint Hilarie. Toward the end of that century, Helene Purkis was already announcing in the city's newspapers offering to "replace teeth with no pain, cauterize them, and make cast gold fillings." She also sold her own Diapbenix Elixir. Spanish history of the 19th century holds two similar cases. One of these female dentists was Polonia Sanz from Zaragoza. These women had to overcome numerous obstacles to devote themselves to these and other activities traditionally practiced by males

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An easy way for you to share and discuss dentistry and more...

For any help on posting on the site, email at [email protected]