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History of Dentistry

By Mike Meek, DDS on September 18, 2018

Male dental patient smiling in mirrorDentistry is among the world’s oldest medical professions. In fact, current records date all the way back the Indus Valley Civilization in 7000 BC. Since that time, humanity has made numerous strides in techniques and technology.

We now understand how preventative care can preserve oral health, restorative dentistry can repair decayed or damaged teeth, and cosmetic treatments can keep a smile looking brilliant and youthful. Here, our team at 38th Street Dental in Austin, TX explores the history of dentistry and briefly discusses the discoveries that brought us to where we are today.

The Ancient World

Although we know some form of dentistry was practiced as far back as 7000 BC, the first written record was produced in 5000 BC. An ancient Sumerian text suggested that the primary cause of dental decay was tooth worms.

Believe it or not, this theory lasted until the 1700s, when it was finally proven false. Here are a few other notable events in the ancient world:

  • 2600 BC: An Egyptian scribe, named Hesy-Re, was also known as a dental practitioner. When he died, his tombstone read: “The greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians”.
  • 1700 - 1550 BC: The Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian text, discussed toothache remedies and diseases of the teeth.
  • 500 - 300 BC: Aristotle and Hippocrates wrote about the eruption patterns of teeth, treating gum disease and tooth decay, extracting teeth, and stabilizing fractured jaws with wires.
  • 100 BC: A Roman medical writer named Celsus recorded information about oral hygiene, jaw fractures, tooth pain, and the stabilization of loose teeth.

The Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, more dental texts began to surface, and the practice became more recognized. Here are a few highlights from this time period:

  • 700: A Chinese text mentioned “silver paste”, which was an early type of amalgam used to repair teeth.
  • 1210: In France, a Guild of Barbers was formed. In these early days, barbers could perform a wide range of services, including shaving, bloodletting, and tooth extraction.
  • 1530: In Germany, the very first book devoted entirely to dentistry was written by Artzney Buchlein. This text was written for barbers, and discussed oral hygiene, drilling teeth, tooth extraction, and gold fillings.
  • 1575: The Father of Surgery, Ambrose Pare, published his complete works, including information about tooth decay, tooth extraction, and jaw fractures.

1700s

During the 18th century, great accomplishments were made in the field of dentistry. At this point in time, it become a recognized profession.

  • 1723: French surgeon Pierre Fauchard published his work, which included a comprehensive look at basic oral anatomy and function.
  • 1760: John Baker became America’s first dentist when he immigrated from England to set up his practice.
  • 1768 - 1770: The first known case of post-mortem dental forensics occurred. Paul Revere (who practiced dentistry) verified Dr. Joseph Warren’s body by identifying the dental bridge he had constructed.

1800s

Scientific research and education continued to evolve in the 19th century. Here are a few highlights:

  • 1801: The first dental book in America was published by Richard C. Skinner.
  • 1825: Porcelain teeth were manufactured commercially by Samuel Stockton of the White Dental Manufacturing Company.
  • 1833 - 1850: French brothers, the Crawcours, introduced dental amalgam in the United States.
  • 1839: The world’s first dental journal, The America Journal of Dental Science, began publication.
  • 1840: The world’s first dental school was founded by Horace Hayden and Chapin Harris: the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery.
  • 1859: The American Dental Association is formed.
  • 1866: The first female dentist graduated from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery.
  • 1869: The first African-American dentist graduated from Harvard University Dental School.
  • 1890: The first African-American female dentist graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.
  • 1895: The x-ray was discovered by German physicist, Wilhelm Roentgen.

1900s - Present Day

Since the turn of the 20th century, a number of advancements were made in the field of dentistry:

  • 1905: Local anesthesia was invented by Alfred Einhorn, a German chemist.
  • 1917: The first dental hygiene license was awarded to Irene Newman in Connecticut.
  • 1938: The first nylon toothbrush was invented.
  • 1960: The first electric toothbrush was invented.
  • 1980: Osseointegration of dental implants was described by Per-Ingvar Branemark.
  • 1990: Tooth-colored materials became more widespread, and the use of amalgam decreased.

The field of dentistry is constantly evolving. Every day, new developments are being made, and new paths are being forged.

Contact 38th Street Dental

At 38th Street Dental, we offer a wide range of services from preventative care to restorative dentistry. To schedule a consultation, contact us online or call us at (512) 458-6222.

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