Dentistry oh how you've changed! Part 1

Many of our patients tell us how much dentistry has changed since they were children and that got me thinking, how much has dentistry changed? And where did it all start? I took a quick trip through time and here is what I found:


My first stop was 5000BC and Ancient Babylonia; it was here that a Sumerian text described "Tooth worms" as the cause of dental decay. This could possibly be the first signs of basic medical knowledge into dentistry. 

Forwards to 2600BC and the death of Hesy-Ra, the royal physician of Pharaoh Djoser. He is quite possibly the first known physician in history and often called the first dentist too. When Hesy-Ra was buried an inscription was placed within his tomb that read "The greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians", along with attending to the needs of the Pharaoh he also was leading the medical team who aided the workers who were building the pyramids.

2000 years on and I ended up in 500-300BC where Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dentistry; they noted the dates and ages of patients teething patterns, treating decayed teeth and gum disease. They also were the first to suggest removing teeth with forceps and using wires to fix loose teeth and fractured jaws!

Moving on, one very famous Chirstmas and 466 years later in 166-201AD the Etruscans (native to Italy) begin to experiment with gold crowns and fixed bridges.

The year 700 and the Chinese write texts mentioning "silver paste" this is quite possibly the first use of an amalgam like material, welcoming millions of people to the world of ugly fillings! 

Now when I got to France in 1210 things took a strange turn. a Guild of Barbers was established and sooner or later two groups evolved (bear with me, we are still talking about teeth here not hair and beards!) group one was a collection of educated surgeons who were trained to perform complex surgical operations, the members of group 2 were known as Lay Barbers or Barber-surgeons. These were the men who would perform more routine hygienic services such as shaving, bleeding and tooth extraction! But don't fret, if you need a quick trim when next in France it's okay! In 1400 a series of royal decrees prohibited Lay Barbers from practicing all surgical procedures except for bleeding, cupping, leeching and extracting teeth! Pheew! 

I hung around in France for a few hundred years; I quite liked it, bread, cheese, wine, lovely! 1723 was a year to commemorate, Pierre Fauchard; a local surgeon publishes The Surgeon Dentist: A Treatise on Teeth (Le Chirurgien Dentiste) A REVOLUTION! Suddenly the songs from Les Mis spring to mind! This book was the first to comprehensively describe a system for the practice of dentistry; it included everything modern day dentists still need to know.

A quick hop across the channel and to 1760. This is where I met John Baker, he was the earliest medically trained dentist to practice in America and this is the year he set sail from good old England to do just that. In the same year Isaac Greenwood practices as the first native-born American dentist. 

1768, if you are a fan of CSI this is a year to take note of! Paul Revere places advertisements in a Boston newspaper offering his services as a dentist and in 1776 helps solve the first case of post-mortem dental forensics! Gil Grisom eat your heart out! (If you don't watch CSI then that had no relevance what so ever... sorry) This was done by Revere verifying the death of his good friend, acting General Dr. Joseph Warren in the Battle of Breeds Hill. He did this by identifying the bridge he had constructed for Warren before the Revolutionary war.

I took a horse and carriage from Boston to Washington where I met John Greenwood; his name rang a bell and that when I realised I had spoken to his father Isaac Greenwood 30 years earlier. Now in 1790 John was also working as a dentist just like dear old dad. More specifically he was dentist to George Washington! He goes on to later this year construct the first known Dental Foot Engine by adapting his mothers' foot treadle spinning wheel to create a drill! The same year Josiah Flagg, a prominent American dentist creates the first chair made specifically for dental patients. To a wooden Winsor char Mr Flagg attaches an adjustable headrest and an arm extension to hold instruments. Thus the beginnings of the modern day dental surgery were born! 

I have reached a point in history where marvellous things are happening, I can see the dentistry I know and love evolving in front of me and it is so exciting. I'll end part one where we are, and look into the tale of President Washingtons' "wooden" teeth. I'll let you know what I find in part 2 but if you can't wait for the next installment why not give thegallery a call? We will do our best to answer that and any other questions you have on dentistry: 01280 822567





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