I dread going to the dentist. I've been fortunate enough to avoid too much major dental work, although I had an infected wisdom tooth 10 days before I got married (and over a holiday weekend), and a couple years ago I had a root canal. Ugh.
So it was with considerable sympathy that I read about dental woes in centuries past.
Spoiler alert--sort of. If you haven't read Night Shift this is about one of the main characters. Although I didn't really intend Luka's identity to be a surprise to anyone but Aiden, and I certainly dropped a lot of pretty obvious hints. Because it turns out that Luka is a 4000 year old Sumerian vampire. And 4000 years ago, he was about to die of an infected tooth.
Two stories especially inspired this. One was the story of an Egyptian mummy--at 2,100 years old, a youngster compared to Luka. This poor Egyptian guy was in his late 20s or so when he died, and he was most likely killed by a sinus infection that resulted from really bad teeth. CT scans have revealed that someone attempted to help him out, but he died anyway, probably in a lot of pain. Here's the full story, with photos.
The other story is about a teenage boy who died at Jamestown in 1607. Journals from the time told of a boy killed in an Indian attack, and in 2005 a skeleton was excavated at the fort. It belonged to a boy about 15 years old. He'd suffered a broken collarbone and an arrow had struck his leg. The arrowhead was still there. But what's especially interesting is that the boy was dying anyway--from a broken tooth that had abscessed and spread infection. Here's that story.
So until recently, a toothache was a very serious thing (it still can be nowadays, but fortunately less often). And that's what inspired Luka's near-demise.
Next week: The Midwest