The great lakes dental team

The History of Dentistry

Dentistry is much older than you may think. In fact, it's one of the oldest medical professions around. Around the world, there are accounts of dental practices that date back thousands of years. 

Of course, dentistry back then was much more rudimentary than it is today. There was no laser dentistry or other advanced technologies. Still, you may be impressed by the ingenuity of early dentists, who came up with ways to stabilize teeth and fix cavities.

Ancient History of Dentistry

The early ages of dentistry are a bit murky, but there is evidence that the ancient Sumerians believed that "tooth worms" were a cause of cavities and decay. The belief would live on for the next few thousand years.

Over in Egypt, a scribe named Hesy-Re was considered the first dentist. While there's no record of what Hesy-Re did to treat teeth or dental problems, his tomb calls him "the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians." 

The Ancient Greeks were also in on the early dental game. Greek philosophers Aristotle and Hippocrates both wrote about dental practices, including pulling teeth, fixing fractured jaws and treating gum disease. A few hundred years later, the Etruscans pioneered the use of dental prosthetics, including bridges and crowns.

Modern Dental History

While the ancient civilizations had some dentistry, the profession as we know it today really got underway in the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, France established Guilds of Barbers, who were trained in surgical practices, tooth extraction and shaving. In the 1500s, Ambrose Pare, often called the "Father of Surgery," published the Complete Works, which included information on tooth extraction, cavity repair and treatment for jaw fractures. 

By the 1700s, dentistry had made its way across the Atlantic. Paul Revere, perhaps better known for warning about the advancing British army, was also a dentist. Revere advertised his dental services in a Boston newspaper. He was also one of the first to use dental forensics to identify the body of his friend after a battle. American dentists are also credited with designing the first dental chair and dental drill.

Meanwhile, over in France, Nicolas Dubois de Chemant created and patented the first porcelain teeth. 

Scientific Advances in Cavity Repair and Dentistry

As dentistry continued to evolve, there arose a need for training and regulation. The 1800s saw the development of more standardized dental practices, plus a better understanding of what contributes to gum disease and tooth decay. Filling technology advanced during this time, including the use of amalgam and gold as fillings.

Several dental schools got underway, including the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, which was the first to award the  Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. Harvard launched its dental school 1867, becoming the first university to do so. In 1859, a group of 26 dentists met and formed the American Dental Association (ADA). 

It wasn't just the practice of dentistry that advanced and evolved in the 19th century. At-home oral hygiene practices also evolved. The 1880s saw the creation of metal tubes, which allowed for the development of toothpaste in a tube. Previously, the only way to get toothpaste was as a liquid or powder. Patients had to visit a dentist's practice to get their toothpaste. With the development of the metal tube, toothpaste become mass-produced and much easier to obtain.  

Dentistry in the 20th Century and Beyond

The 20th century was a busy time for the dental profession. At the turn of the century, a German dentist developed what would go on to become known as Novocain, a local anesthetic used by dentists for many years (today, dentists are more likely to use lidocaine to numb the area before a procedure).

The early 1900s also saw the development of a lost casting machine, which allowed dentists to make accurate casts for fillings. In 1908, Greene Vardiman Black published "Operative Dentistry," a definitive text on dentistry that would be the go-to volume for dentists for the next 50 years. In his book, Black outlined standards and procedures for numerous dentistry techniques, including fillings and surgeries. 

In the mid-20th century, many municipalities began adding fluoride to the water supplies. The result was a significant decrease in tooth decay in children and adults. Around the same time, the first toothpaste containing fluoride was marketed and sold. 

Other dental technological advances that occurred in the late 20th century included:

  • The invention of a fully reclining dental chair
  • The development of the first electric toothbrush
  • The development of at-home teeth whitening systems
  • The rise of cosmetic dentistry and the use of teeth whitening, veneers and dental implants
  • The use of lasers to treat tooth decay and gum disease

Schedule an Appointment With a Cosmetic Dentist in Mentor OH

Dentistry has come a long way over the past few thousand years. Great Lakes Dental is proud to use some of the latest dentistry techniques and technologies to provide our patients with a comfortable, effective and efficient experience. Whether you're looking for basic teeth cleaning or cosmetic dental treatment at a dentist near me, contact our practice to schedule an appointment today.