Quintessence Int 22 (1991), No. 5 1. May 1991
Voltaire, the leading French intellect of the 18th century, was a notorious hypochondriac. His numerous letters contain hundreds of references to his medical and dental disorders, as well as to those of close friends. Voltaire lived to be 84 years old, but not without suffereing from several systemic medical disorders and from periodontal disease that left him nearly edentulous by his mid-50s. His dental condition was diagnosed as a scorbutic condition, requiring systemic medication. As a result of neglect and possible mercury intoxication, his condition worsened, and he lost most of his teeth and suffered facial collapse because he did not wear a dental prosthesis. This paper recounts events in Voltaire's life that were connected to his medical and dental history, and in so doing provides a glance at medical and dental practice in 18th-century France.