March 6th is Dentists’ Day! Learn About The History of Dentistry

Dentist examining a patients teeth in the dentists chair at the

Next Monday is National Dentists’ Day! We may be just a little bit biased, but this is one of our favorite holidays at Dr. Cindy Flanagan’s office. It is a day to honor and celebrate the important work that dentists all over the world do. More importantly, it is a time to reflect on your dental care and ensure you’re keeping your smile in top shape. Many people don’t realize it, but maintaining our teeth has actually been an important part of human history for centuries. Knowing the origins of this field can help you understand why dentistry is crucial to your healthcare and appreciate the advancements we enjoy today. In the following blog, we cover the history of dentistry in honor of Dentists’ Day.

In the Beginning…

Just how long has dentistry been around? The American Dental Association’s History of Dentistry Timeline cites the first important event millennia ago in 5000 B.C.: “A Sumerian text of this date describes ‘tooth worms’ as the cause of dental decay.” Of course, now we know that the waste of bacteria, rather than worms, is what causes cavities, and we know how to restore them with tooth-colored fillings, as well. The ADA also mentions “an Egyptian text, the Ebers Papyrus,” from 1700-1550 B.C., which functions as the first dental textbook, and notes that renowned philosophers, Hippocrates and Aristotle, “[wrote] about dentistry, including the eruption pattern of teeth, treating decayed teeth and gum disease, extracting teeth with forceps, and using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws.” We benefit from their knowledge even today!

Pearly White Professionals

Believe it or not, the first dentists were barbers! These practitioners wouldn’t cut your hair—the ADA explains that in 1210, “a Guild of Barbers is established in France.” These barbers were “surgeons who were educated and trained to perform complex surgical operations” and “lay barbers…who performed more routine hygienic services.” A few centuries later, in 1723, “Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon, [published] The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth,” making him “the Father of Modern Dentistry” because he designed “a comprehensive system for the practice of dentistry.” To some degree, all dentists, including Dr. Flanagan, can credit Fauchard for their profession. We also owe our dues to John Baker, “the earliest medically-trained dentist to practice in America,” who settled here in 1760. This means that American dentistry came before the Declaration of Independence!

Tooth Technologies

Of course, in the days of yore, dental tools were considerably less sophisticated, but many of the instruments we use today do actually have timeworn predecessors. Know Your Teeth describes: “many of the most common dental tools were used as early as the Stone Age. Thankfully, technology and continuing education have made going to the dentist a much more pleasant…experience” as the centuries have gone by.

For example, “the first toothbrushes were small sticks or twigs mashed at one end to create a broader cleaning surface…Europe adopted the bristle brush in the 17th century” and “the first electric toothbrush was marketed in 1880.” Nowadays, of course, toothbrushes are carefully calibrated instruments. We can help you find the one that best suits your needs when you come in for your biannual cleaning and examination.

Prosthetic teeth also went through a fascinating transformation throughout the ages. Know Your Teeth explains: “ancient civilizations used ivory and bone to create new teeth. Unfortunately, this craft was lost until the mid-1800s. Rotten or damaged teeth were simply extracted, and gaps became a way of life” until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when porcelain and “vulcanized rubber, which was used to hold false teeth,” came onto the scene. In our practice, we offer high-quality, handcrafted dental crowns, which are both sturdy and stunning.

Experience Twenty-First Century Dentistry

Celebrate the rich history and innovative present of dentistry by coming in to our Houston dental practice for a visit! Contact us today to schedule your next appointment with Dr. Flanagan.

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