January 20, 2016

A Brief History of Dentistry

In modern times, most people take care of their teeth by brushing them and using dental floss. Some rinse with mouthwash and use an insurance plan to visit their dentists, but humans didn’t always practice such a high level of mouth hygiene. According to history, dentistry has a long and storied past.

Dentistry: In the Beginning

The first recognized dentist was Hesy-Re. After his death around 2600 BC, those who buried him inscribed his tomb with the title “the greatest of those who deal with teeth.” The Indus Valley Civilization treated tooth trouble with bow drills.

People used these ancient tools for woodworking as well as for the treatment of an infected tooth. Primitive dentistry was taken up by famed figures of the past.

For instance, both Hippocrates and Aristotle mentioned that they treated people for tooth problems like decay and gum disease. Treatment involved removing an unhealthy tooth with forceps and stabilizing loose ones with wires.

An ancient civilization known as the Etruscans had amazing dentists living among them. These early people resided in Italy from 166 to 201 AC, and when it came to caring for their choppers, they were incredibly inventive.

For instance, the Etruscans made false ones from deceased animals or humans. To hold them together, they used gold bands. The civilization also used a gold apparatus to keep a loose tooth in place. The Romans embraced many of these same techniques.

A Career is Born

In the Middle Ages, dentistry became a profession. During this era, most dental work consisted of pulling a sore tooth with a primitive device. Curiously, the professionals in charge of extractions were the same ones people went to for haircuts.

To remove a problem tooth, a barber from the Middle Ages typically used a device called a Dental Pelican or a Dental Key. Both tools mimicked the design elements of today’s forceps. In the past, when barbers moonlighted in the dental industry, they weren’t in the business of prevention as they only dealt with extractions.

During the 13th century, an organization called the Guild of Barbers began in France. Later, the group split into two sectors. One included those who had the education and training to complete complicated surgical procedures. The other group was made up of lay barbers.

This group offered basic hygiene services like bleeding, shaving and tooth extraction. To keep people safe, France initiated a number of royal decrees that prevented lay barbers from performing serious surgical procedures. The country allowed them to practice bleeding, leeching and cupping. A lay barber could continue to offer extractions.

To keep their choppers clean, people chewed twigs. They also made toothpaste from items like mashed eggshells, but during these early years, toothbrushes were not available. According to historical reports, the Chinese invented a bristle model in the late 1400s.

Dentistry Improves

From 1650 to 1800, the main concepts of modern-day dentistry got its start. Pierre Fauchard, a French doctor from the 18th century, was the man who developed the science. He is known as “The Father of Modern Dentistry,” and he established a number of the procedures used by today’s dental experts. Dr. Fauchard came up with the idea of dental fillings. He also understood that sugar acids are a major cause of tooth decay.

During these years, medical professionals started coming up with advancements even if they weren’t able to act on them. For instance, in the mid-1700s, Claude Mouton spoke about using white enameling with gold crowns. He also described the use of posts for root canals as well as for gold crowns. In 1789, Nicolas Dubois de Chemant requested a patent for porcelain teeth. A year later, John Greenwood, who provided dental care for George Washington, manufactured the first dental foot engine. Around this same time, Josiah Flagg invented the first dental chair.

A Move to the Future of Dentistry

In 1770, porcelain dentures were invented. Richard C. Skinner published America’s first dental book in 1801. During these years, advancements continued. For instance, Henry Morton introduced the use of anesthetic for dental treatments while George Fellows developed a clockwork dental drill in 1864. A few years later, the electric dental drill made its debut, and 80 years after that, the air turbine dental drill appeared on the scene.

In America, dental training became available when Horace Hayden and Chapin Harris founded the first dental school in 1840, which resulted in government involvement as well as official regulation by the American Dental Association.

According to history, Alabama was the first of the American states  to regulate dentistry by establishing a dental practice act. The legislation called for a dentist to be placed on Alabama’s medical board to grant dental licenses. Unfortunately, the state failed to enforce the legislation.

Stores began selling tubes of toothpaste in 1889, and in 1895, Wilhelm Rontgen discovered a way to make x-rays. This invention led to advancements in dental care.

The Industry’s Transformation

In 1908, Greene Vardiman Black released a two-volume treatise titled “Operative Dentistry.” The script revolutionized the industry as it became a vital text for clinical dentists for the next 50 years. Later, Black established methods for fillings, operative procedures and the use of instruments. In 1913, oral hygiene training became available when Alfred C. Fones opened his school in Connecticut. Implant metals found their way into dentistry in 1937 with Alvin Strock inserting a Vitallium screw into a patient.

During the late ‘40s, additional government involvement resulted in a bill dedicated to dental research. The bill included federal funding, which aided the industry’s advancements. Fluoride toothpaste hit the market in the ‘50s, and laser treatments for gum diseases were offered to patients in the 1960s. By the late ‘80s, people were looking into cosmetic options. A company began selling the first at-home bleaching kits in 1989.

Dental Insurance Becomes a Thing

Even with dentistry’s extensive history, dental insurance didn’t become available until 1954. California initiated the first official insurance plan. During the ‘60s, dental coverage grew in popularity and became more widespread. The ‘70s saw the arrival of employer-based plans while large insurance organizations got their start in the 1980s.

Today, workers expect companies to provide dental insurance with their benefits. Often, an insurance plan will cover preventative care and much of the expense of minor dental work. This affordable coverage lets you take advantage of the advancements made in modern dentistry.

Read next:  Can dental problems cause health problems?

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