While most books on dentistry describe the clinical and medical procedures involved, this book expands the field to examine the role of dentistry and teeth in everything from biology to biography. This book offers facts and figures regarding famous historical figures, such as John Hunter, Dr Crippen, Doc Holliday, and Paul Revere, exploring how their connections to dentistry shaped them, as well as the story of the two young dentists who discovered the principles of general anaesthesia. Other chapters focus on the amazing ranges of teeth in animals, from the teeth in piranhas to the tusks and ivory of elephants and narwhals, looking at their biological and cultural significance. The importance of teeth in understanding the evolution of humans and in revolutionizing the study of archaeology is also evaluated. This book is appropriate for dentists, medical and dentistry students, and non-specialists to introduce the myriad interesting aspects relating to teeth.

Please note that print volumes do not include full colour.

Key Features

  • Includes well-illustrated and thoroughly explained examples and anecdotes
  • Presents both popular and little-known instances of teeth’s importance in history
  • Written in an engaging tone appropriate for academics and the wider public


Students and practitioners of dentistry and medicine; those interested in the place of teeth in biology and culture.

Table of Contents




About the Author

1. The Jaws of the Piranha

Natural History of the Piranha

Teeth of the Piranha

Tooth Replacement in the Piranha


2. Tusks and Ivory

What Are Tusks?

Elephant Tusks

Other Animals with Tusks

Sperm Whale Teeth

3. How Two Young Dentists Changed the History of Surgery: Horace Wells (1815–1848) and William Thomas Green Morton (1819–1868)

Horace Wells

William Thomas Green Morton

The Fight for Recognition

Dr Crawford Williamson Long (1815–1878)

4. What is a Tooth?

Teeth of Invertebrates (Snails, Worms and Leeches)

Teeth of Vertebrates (Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles and Mammals)

5. Teeth in the Most Unlikely Places

Unusual Medical Case History 1

Unusual Medical Case History 2

6. Snakes, Saliva and a Nobel Prize

7. You Are What You Eat: How a Tooth Can Reveal Where You Came from and What You Ate

Who Are You/Where Did You Come from?

What Did You Eat?

Strontium and Radioactive Carbon


8. Teeth of Rock-Climbing Gobies: The Most Remarkable Dentitions in the Animal Kingdom?

9. Why Can’t I Have Lots of Sets of Teeth Like a Shark?

Tooth Replacement in Fish, Amphibians and Reptiles

Tooth Replacement in Humans and Other Mammals


10. Serendipity and the Discovery of the Modern Dental Implant

11. Hens’ Teeth Are Not as Rare as You Think

Normal Tooth Development

Why Teeth Do Not Normally Develop in Chicks

Experiments Producing Teeth in Chicks

Teeth Occurring Naturally in Chicks

Explanation of Why Normal Chicks Lack Teeth


12. John Hunter and the London Tooth Museum

John Hunter and His Contribution to Medicine and Science


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© 2013
Print ISBN:
Electronic ISBN:

About the author

Barry Berkovitz

Affiliations and Expertise

Emeritus Reader in Anatomy, School of Biomedical Sciences, King’s College London; Honorary Curator, Odontological Collection, Royal College of Surgeons of England; Honorary Research Associate, History of Dentistry Unit, Dental Institute, King’s College London


"While most books on dentistry describe the clinical and medical procedures involved, this book expands the field to examine the role of dentistry and teeth in everything from biology to biography."--King’s College Newsletter, June 2013
"This excellent book will appeal to dentists and non-dentists alike. It will provide dental historians with many ideas for research."--Dental History Magazine
"From start to finish, it really is hard to put down… The book takes the reader through a whole host of interesting dentally relevant areas and is not rivaled in any other text out there."--British Dental Journal, April 27, 2013