A dental prosthesis, from a necropolis in Rome dating to the 1st-2nd century AD, provides the first evidence of skilled dentistry during the Imperial Age. Although many Roman literary sources document the development of dentistry during the Imperial Age, A. Cornelium Celsum (25 BC-50 AD) first provided a systematic description of dental disease and their treatment in De Medicina. In this book, Celsum also indicates how to bind and sustain unstable teeth by using silk or gold wires: “If for some blows or for other reasons some teeth are unsteady, they need to be bound with a gold wire to the solid teeth.” (De Medicina 7, XII). During archaeological excavations carried out in 2000 by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma in the necropolis of Viale della Serenissima, the partially cremated remains of an adult woman, still wearing a dental prosthesis, were found (1st-2nd century AD). It seems very likely that, in the case under study, the dental rubbing was performed for hygienic or palliative reasons, as suggested by the marked alveolar bone resorption indicative of severe periodontal disease. This disease was probably responsible for the central incisor’s loss. Although Etruscan gold prostheses (VI-IV centuries BC) are relatively numerous, none dating to the Roman Age has yet been published. Thus, the finding presented here provides the first archeological evidence of dentistry in that time period and documents a diffuse practice mentioned in different literary sources, not necessarily medical.
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