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Discover the History of Dentistry

Danny O'Keefe D.D.S. Nov 26, 2016

A toothThe earliest signs of interest in dentistry dates back to 5000 BC. A text from that time discussed “tooth worms” as a potential cause for tooth decay. How did we get from there to the cosmetic and restorative dentistry procedures we are familiar with today? Below is a brief outline of the history of dentistry. You can contact our Jackson, MS dental team for more information about modern-day dentistry and the technology we use in our practice.

The Ancient Origins of Dentistry

Following the first textual reference to dentistry, an Egyptian scribe’s tombstone from around 2600 BC referred to him as a dental practitioner. This is the first reference to what we call a dentist today. Both Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about various aspects of dentistry between 500 and 300 BC. They mentioned tooth decay and gum disease, extraction, and more. By 200 AD, gold was being used in dental prosthetics for crowns and bridgework.

Dentistry in the Middle Ages

In the middle ages, the Chinese mention the use of amalgam, which is a type of metal used for fillings. In Europe, the Guild of Barbers included surgeons who performed complex operations (not solely relating to dentistry) and “barber-surgeons” who extracted teeth and performed haircuts and shaving services.

The first book written solely about dentistry was published in Germany in 1530. It was written for surgeons and barbers and discussed topics such as general oral hygiene, extractions, and the placement of gold fillings.

Dentistry as a Profession

By the 18th century, the man we now refer to as the “Father of Modern Dentistry” published a book that included comprehensive instructions for the practice of dentistry. His book addressed dental anatomy, oral and dental operations, restorative treatments, and the creation of dentures.

In 1760, the first medically trained dentist arrived and began practicing dentistry in America. Less than 10 years later, Paul Revere advertised his dentistry services. In 1776, he was the first to use dental forensics post-mortem to identify a friend’s remains.

In the late 18th century, the focus of dentistry began to shift toward aesthetics. One dentist recommended using white enamel on top of gold fillings to create a more natural look. Later, a French dentist patented porcelain teeth. Near the end of the century, a foot-powered dental drill was developed, and was the first chair designed specifically for dental patients.

Advancements in Dentistry Techniques and Technology

The use of porcelain teeth became more popular in the 19th century, as did amalgam fillings. The mid-19th century saw the development of a base for dentures. In 1841, Alabama became the first state to enact regulations for the dental profession. The 19th century also saw the development and use of ether anesthesia, rubber dental dams, dental x-rays, and more.

The 1900s saw even more advancements in dentistry, including:

  • The first nylon-bristled toothbrush
  • Fluoridation of tap water
  • Dental bonding with acrylic resin
  • Fluoridated toothpastes
  • Lasers to treat periodontal disease
  • Electric toothbrushes
  • Tooth-whitening methods

Contact Our Dental Office Today

Learn more about how the history of dentistry has influenced modern dental practices. Contact our dental office today to discuss our use of advanced dentistry techniques and technology.

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