Medizinisch-chirurgische Abhandlung über die Krankheiten der Zähne, des Zahnfleisches und über das schwere Zahnen der Kinder
Christian Friedrich Benedict Ettmüller (1773-1848/9)
(Medical and Surgical Treatise on Diseases of the Teeth, Gums and Difficult Teething in Children) – 1798, Publisher Adam Friedrich Böhme.
Born on 15 August, 1773 in Gersdorf, south of Leipzig, Christian Friedrich Benedict Ettmüller studied medicine at University of Halle-Wittenberg where he obtains his doctorate in 1796 with a thesis entitled Dissertatio inauguralis de vi vitali et nervosa una et aedam, directed by Friederich Ludwig Kreysig. By this time, his parents moved to Jüterbog, a small-town south of Berlin, where his father, Carl Gottlieb Ettmuller, became mayor. In 1803, at age 26 he marries Henriette Arndt.
Unfortunately, very little else is known about his life. His writings, both in German and Latin (dissertation theses) cover a range of topics, from diseases of the teeth (1798) to eyes (in 1799 and 1801). He was likely a practicing physician specializing on eyes and teeth and teaching at University of Leipzig where many of his dissertation theses were conducted.
In 1798 he published two books on teeth. One popular entitled: Der sorgfältige Zahnarzt (The careful dentist) published in Vienna, is a book for the masses on prevention of oral diseases. The second volume, more scientific and directed at professionals, Medizinisch-chirurgische Abhandlung über die Krankheiten der Zähne, des Zahnfleisches und über das schwere Zahnen der Kinder” (Medical and Surgical Treatise on Diseases of the Teeth, Gums and Difficult Teething in Children). Written in German, this book covers fundamental knowledge on dentistry from pediatric to adult teeth.
Ettmüller starts with the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene. Next, he covers different diseases of teeth including tartar, erosion, tooth-loss, dental pain and dislocation of the jaw. The next section covers tooth extraction. The following chapter on periodontal tissue, not surprisingly discusses in detail scurvy (scorbut), a major cause of tooth loss at the end of the 18th century. The chapter covers symptoms and clinical manifestations of periodontal diseases including mucosal and gingival ulcers, hypertrophy, spongy and hardened gingiva and oral cancer.
The final chapters focus on difficult teething, a condition mistakenly associated with infant death, simply because of temporal coincidence of premature death due to undiagnosed causes and eruption of teeth which just happened during the same time. Ettmüller’s book does not bring any scientific breakthrough even for that time. Nevertheless, it is an interesting window to the state of knowledge and care for oral health at the end of the 18th century.
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(Based on research and essay by Ramtin Vafamansouri, class of 2024 as part of his assignment in the Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry Course Fall 2020). Edited by Andrew I Spielman.