The history of dentistry dates back thousands of years. It may come as a surprise to learn that dentistry is one of the oldest medical professions. In fact, professionals have been protecting teeth since at least 7000 B.C. where evidence has been found relating to the Indus Valley Civilisation. Descriptions related to tooth decay and other aspects of dentistry have been dated to 5000 B.C. This was a Sumerian text, and it pointed to tooth worms as being the course of decay.
What’s more, this idea wasn’t disproved until the 1700s!
Ancient Grecian thinkers such as Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dentistry and treating decaying teeth. However, it took until 1530 for the first book entirely devoted to dentistry to appear. That book was entitled, The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth.
Hippocrates, the ‘Father of Medicine,’ had an interesting method of treating dental issues. Instead of praying to the gods as was the custom at the time, he suggested observing the problem and making a practical recommendation based on this treatment. Treatments included extraction, cauterising oral tissue and using tooth ointments.
Aristotle also helped in developing treatment methods, including using forceps to remove teeth and attaching loose teeth with wire. Other Grecian discoveries included Claudius Galen’s deduction that teeth are made of bone and nerves, and Diocles of Carystus recommended robbing teeth and gum for oral hygiene and improving oral health.
Cutting Hair and Pulling Teeth
During the middle ages, monks carried out all dental surgeries as they were the most educated citizens. The Church eventually banned monks from performing surgery, so barbers took up the trade thank to their expertise with sharp shaving blades.
So, your barber became the person you visited to have a sore tooth pulled, have some blood let, embalm a body and of course, get a good haircut.
In the 1700s, dentistry became a fully-fledged profession. A French surgeon credited as the Father of Modern Dentistry, Pierre Fauchard published The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth. This influential book contained the first comprehensive guide to caring for teeth. He also furthered the use of dental fillings and prosthesis and tied the acids produced by sugar as the cause of tooth decay.
He also identified the ‘seaman’s disease’, or scurvy which occurs due to a lack of vitamin C and presents as spongy gums, amongst other things.
Advancing Dental Technology
Dentistry quickly advanced in the early 1800s. A huge breakthrough happened when Giuseppangelo Fonzi created porcelain teeth, complete with bake-in retentive pins. Another critical development in prosthetics is related to Charles Stent’s invention of the impression compound.
At a similar time, American Robert Arthur and Horace Wells introduced cohesive gold foil used for soldering procedures and denture bases and the use of nitrous oxide anaesthesia respectively. The vulcanisation process of rubber by Charles Goodyear was another momentous occasion.
The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was founded in 1840 and become the world’s first school of dentistry. The first Doctor of Dental Medicine Degree was handed out by the Harvard University Dental School in 1867, and by 1870 a further nine dental school has cropped up around the US.
The first Australasian College of Dentistry was established in 1897.
The Australian Dental Industry Association (ADIA)
In July 1925, representatives from eleven companies formed what would become the ADIA. This association has been central in creating a dental industry in Australia that is a leader worldwide.
It has ensured that the local industry is tied to global growth and was a founding member of the association of International Dental Manufacturers. Today, ADIA members supply 95% of all products used in modern Australian dentistry, and member numbers are reaching record levels.
The dentistry we all enjoy today has come a long way from the crude methods of the past. In fact, most forms of dentists are painless and non-invasive meaning patients can leave their fears at the door.
A huge advancement in dentistry has been the focus on preventative rather than reactive dentistry. That means your dentist is more interested in building a relationship with you where you come in for check-ups twice a year to have little issues treated than only seeing you when you need a tooth pulled or some other invasive form of treatment.