Jennifer Thomson, Museum Learning Officer, writes about the second of our kids workshops “Marvellous Molars & Other Teeth” which took place from the 25th July – 2nd August.
The first question we asked participants at our workshop was if they liked going to the dentist. The answer was, of course, a resounding no! They were told that hundreds of years ago it was much worse, as there were no properly qualified dentists. It was often a barber surgeon who would remove a tooth that was giving the patient bother, or worse a jeweller or blacksmith as they had the right tools for the job. Our attendees winced as they thought about how painful that would have been, especially with no anaesthetic!
After that brief history lesson, we then set about making plaster casts of our own teeth! As the casts dried, there was an exciting opportunity to explore some animal skulls courtesy of Edinburgh Zoo. Children and adults alike were fascinated to see the differences in the teeth between carnivores and herbivores and how important the design of the teeth was to suit their diets. Being able to handle an elephant molar tooth was a particular highlight, due to it’s size and weight. Everyone was also amazed that an elephant has four of these massive molars in their mouth and that over the course of their lives these teeth are replaced six times!
Next we discussed the history of the toothbrush, from the frayed twigs used by the Ancient Egyptians, to the bone and pig’s hair bristle ‘toothbrushes’ invented by the Chinese and finally the modern toothbrush we use today. We all agreed the design had definitely improved over the years!
After finding out about some of the unusual ingredients that the Romans used to put in their toothpastes (crushed bones and burnt eggshells!?) there was a chance to make their own batch of toothpaste. Its effectiveness was tested by attempting to brush the shells of some hard boiled eggs that had been soaked overnight in tea, coffee and coca cola (all the household favourites). Despite some vigorous brushing, most of the stains remained, a gentle reminder of the importance of brushing your teeth after drinking lots of those…
Finally there was a chance to operate a foot pedaled dental drill and examine some objects from the museum’s dental collection.
During the rest of the summer holidays children visiting the museum can take part in our ‘Detective Challenge’, a self-guided trail which tests their observation skills. Completed sheets can be handed in at the Museum reception desk to be entered into our prize draw. Runs until Sun 20th August 2017.