mandag den 9. september 2013

The King and his Teeth

It is difficult to imagine the imposing Louis XIV commanding his troops without teeth... Strangely enough Louis XIV was born with two teeth in his mouth which only happens in one baby out of two thousand. The Sun King suffered from tooth aches from quite early in his life and it was all made worse by the endless supply of sugared fruit and sweet cakes. His tooth aches was at their worst in the 1680's.

In 1685 the tooth ache had gotten so bad that the King needed to have one of his (remaining) teeth extracted. The tooth in question was a molar and it had to go. So, the King had it removed and all seemed well for a time. But his doctors had never taking into account that you probably need to have some level of hygiene when dealing with a place as filled with bacteria as the mouth. Consequently, an infection set in and the doctors decided to make the King undergo a truly horrific operation when you consider that there was no anaesthetics - not even for the King: he had to have all his teeth on his upper jaw pulled out!
It might had been around this time that Louis talked to a Cardinal while eating through a straw. The Cardinal smoothly replied to the King's problem with: "Ah Sire, teeth! Nobody has teeth any more!"

Normally it was blacksmiths who had been responsible for pulling out teeth and for that reason many doctors refused to have anything to do with dentistry at first because it was considered to be a "mechanical field" and therefore not worthy of a doctor's attention. It was during the reign of Louis XIV that professional dentists first began to appear and the long-suffering Louis quickly added one to his entourage. Jean-François Capperon was the King's "dentiste" and Louis went so far as to ennoble him!
At the very end of Louis XIV's life he had no teeth whatsoever and lived of food that could be sucked up through a straw.

There is one myth also related to Louis XIV's teeth but it seems just a bit to unlikely to be true:
When the King was having yet another tooth pulled out something went wrong and a piece of his jaw was also extracted (ouch). This had the unfortunate consequence that whenever the King drank something it would also come out his nose! This allegedly went on until a surgeon filled the unintended hole. Judge for yourself: is it believable?

Louis XIV was probably already missing most of his teeth
when this portrait was painted

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