Filings, surgeries, and braces may not sound like music to your ears, but you probably don’t realize how lucky you are to have them. The road to modern dentistry was long and hard. Modern dentistry inventions have made visiting the dentist a sanctuary compared to what our ancestors went through.
Read below to learn more about how we got modern dentistry:
5000 BC: Ancient cultures from India, Egypt, China, Japan, and Greece all had stories about a “tooth worm.” They believed tooth decay came from this creature.
2600 BC: Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, was the first person who claimed to be a dentist. An engraving on his tombstone says: “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.”
500-300 BC: Aristotle and Hippocrates wrote about dentistry. They wrote about using wires to stabilize loose teeth and extracting teeth with forceps. Think of that next time you sit down to get your tooth pulled.
500 AD: During the dark ages, monks were the only people who continued to practice dentistry. They only had contact with civilization when they had barbers cut their hair. Monks also had barbers assist with dental work because they weren’t allowed to personally perform surgeries. Barbers became known for cutting hair and performing dental work.
Mid-1500s: Queen Elizabeth started the fad of black teeth. Eating a lot of sugar naturally caused black teeth, but the fad became so popular that some used cosmetics to create the illusion of black teeth.
Mid-1500s: The Japanese used wood for false teeth during this time. However, the wood would break down from saliva, and the moisture would cause the wood to swell, making wood an impractical option.
1790: The first dental drill and chair appeared around this time. John Greenwood, one of George Washington’s dentists, created the first drill that dentists didn’t have to rotate by hand. He made the dental foot engine from his mother’s foot treadle spinning wheel.
Dentists didn’t use chairs until this time either—they’d have the patient sit on the ground instead. During surgeries, the dentist put the patient’s head between his knees to stop him or her from squirming.
But in 1970, Josiah Flagg created the first comfortable dentist chair. This chair had a padded headrest and introduced the extension that holds tools. Armrests were also included so patients had something to hold onto.
1820: Claudius Ash starting selling 18-carat gold plates for false teeth in London. Most people couldn’t afford these stylish dental enhancements, so they used extracted teeth with various bases instead. During the Battle of Waterloo, 52 barrels of used teeth were sent to London to make dentures.
1825: As you can imagine, using other’s people teeth didn’t last long. White Dental Manufacturing Company started making porcelain teeth instead. The company dominated the dental supply market through the 19th century.
However, some people continued to use other people’s old teeth. Teeth from Waterloo continued to go into dentures until 1865.
1846: William Morton used ether anesthesia for surgery. Others used laughing gas and cocaine for pain relief. Before this time, people didn’t have any way to ease the pain besides strong alcohol, so the new painkillers made dental procedures much less frightening. In 1905, manufacturers began mass-producing Novocain, which quickly became the most common local anesthetic.
1855: Robert Arthur used cohesive gold foil for cavity fillings.
1864: Sanford C Barnum created the rubber dam. The elastic rubber fit over the tooth via weights, isolating the tooth from the oral cavity.
1866: Lucy Beamna Hobbs became the first woman to earn a dental degree.
1871: George F. Green created a motor hand piece dental drill. Dental burs had enough speed to cut enamel and dentin, revolutionizing dental possibilities.
1880: Manufacturers started mass-producing toothpaste. Until then, dentists had sold teeth cleaner in liquid or powder form.
1914: In World War I, only soldiers with well-maintained teeth could serve. Toothbrushes came with their rations. When they returned home, they introduced regular teeth brushing to their families.
1938: Stores started selling nylon toothbrushes with synthetic bristles.
1945: Newburgh, New York, Grand Rapids, and the state of Michigan added water fluoride to their public water systems. The fluoride helped to boost dental health in the populace.
1957: John Borden created an air-driven hand piece drill. The drill had speeds up to 300,000 rotations a minute. This drill launched a new era of high speed dentistry. A year later, dentists started using reclining dental chairs.
1990: Bleaching, veneers, and implants appeared and helped create truly white smiles.
Now dentists use cutting edge technologies like metal-free dental crowns, dental implants, digital dental x-rays, and zoom teeth whitening. You’ll find comfortable dental chairs and televisions in most operatories. So when you think about early dental techniques, you should definitely feel lucky to live with the benefits of modern dentistry. Take time to appreciate modern procedures the next time you visit your dentist.