We’ve looked at various events throughout history in previous blogs but never taken a truly comprehensive look at the history of Dentistry, as we know it. Today, for those of you who love to play (and win!) at Trivia, here is some useful dental history that will help ensure your victory the next time friends gather to play a “friendly” game of what I like to call “tooth trivia!”
We have touched on the fact before that throughout history, other professions, such as barbers and blacksmiths, actually played a significant role in oral hygiene although very often that role was confined to removing the tooth that was causing pain for the patient! Today however, I want to focus in a little bit more on the “formal” history of Dentistry. Rest assured though, that at 500 words or less – it won’t be comprehensive and no one is going to give you a test afterwards!
Most generally credit the French Pierre Fauchard, (1678-1761) as being the “Father of Modern Dentistry.” He began his surgical training in the Navy at the tender age of 15 and so he became particularly interested in diseases experienced by those serving at sea, including dental issues. On his return to France he began practicing as an oral surgeon and eventually wrote “Le chirurgien dentiste ou traité des dents (The Surgeon-Dentist, or Treatise on the Teeth), in 1728.”(1) This is widely regarded as the first comprehensive book on the practice of Dentistry and it included a variety of detailed descriptions for treating various dental issues such as dental decay, restoring teeth and even descriptions of oral surgery and periodontal disease.
The earliest evidence of the actual practice of Dentistry goes back much farther, as far as 7000 BCE. Evidence found in an area now known as Pakistan, suggests early peoples were familiar with the concept of drilling out rotting tooth pulp and replacing it with a variety of different materials, mostly it is assumed, as a pain relief measure. Beeswax, fig juice, honey, barley or linens dipped in citrus oil have all been found during archaeological digs around the world. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Etruscans and the Chinese (6000 BCE) are all known to have practiced some form of dentistry. The Mayans are one of the earliest known civilizations to practice cosmetic dentistry, decorating teeth with precious stones and jewels. They seemed to have particular knowledge of how to avoid drilling into the pulp of the tooth – that’s a good thing! But perhaps, from our modern day perspective, the most remarkable historical invention to revolutionize Dentistry is that of nitrous oxide! Nitrous oxide was first used by the American Horace Wells, as an anaesthetic tool, and I am sure we all agree that this was an important step forward for pain free Dentistry!
Teeth go back a long time. So too, it appears, does the practice of Dentistry. There are a number of other related historical facts we could share but they would take us many pages and many days to explain. I’m thinking such an explanation would last a lot longer than any game of Trivia you will ever play! Hopefully today, we’ve simply piqued your curiosity and given you enough information to win against your friends the next time you sit down to play. As always, thanks for reading and remember: “don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”
*and with various other sources including: https://www.ancient-origins.net/human-origins-science/jewel-capped-teeth-golden-bridges-9000-years-dentistry-001427
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