In part one of my trip through time I ventured through the ages; from Babylonia to France, and Italy to the United States. I met a lot of incredibly important people along the way all of whom have made extraordinary impacts on the modern world of dentistry. I'm continuing my travels today; leaving Washington DC behind and headed into the future.
I ended the last installment with the promise of an answer: "Did George Washington really wear wooden dentures?" and the answer is (drum-roll please) No he did not! This is a myth so widely believed that it was actually taught in schools across America for decades! Even the National Museum of American Dentistry would tell its visitors the tale. Over the years the President wore dentures made of ivory, bone and lead; defiantly no wood! Can you imagine the splinters??? Now that we have settled that; Onwards!
Moving on through this American road trip and I'm headed to Alabama and 1841 to discover that the state has enacted the fist dental practice act which regulates dentistry within the United States. This was the first time that dentists had to register with a governing body before practicing their craft.
1846 (yay for 1846!!!) Dentist William Morton (Yay for William Morton!!) conducts the first successful public demonstration of the use of ether anesthesia for surgery!!! This is the gentleman who put things in motion for todays local anesthetic. (YAY for anesthesia!!! YAY for no more pain!!!)1855 and the bling is introduced to dentistry! Robert Arther creates the cohesive gold foil method which allows dentists to use gold as a means to fill a cavity. The method of prepping the gold may be different these days but it is still used in practices across the globe.
1864 Root canal patients this is one for you; This is the year that Sanford C. Barnum developed the rubber dam aka the sheet of rubber we place over you mouth during an RCT appointment. Apart from originating the question "What the heck is that??" the rubber dam does an amazing job at ensuring no bugs or saliva get into that freshly cleaned tooth of yours!
1871 and another invention comes along that will drastically improve the work of dentists! Mr James B. Morrison patents the first commercially manufactured foot-treadle dental engine. This new drill engine was affordable enough for the vast majority of dentists to be able to have one within their practices. The mechanics supplied the dental burs with enough speed to cut enamel and dentin smoothly and quickly, revolutionizing the practice of dentistry. Unfortunately Mr Morrison wouldn't be celebrating alone, the very same year a Mr George F. Green receives a patent for the first electric dental engine. No peddling involved! Good for all of us but maybe a little bit of rain on Morrisons parade.
1880 This my friends is a year that has been a blessing to us all! Well, to all of us who brush our teeth! For this is the year that the collapsible metal tube was created! Oh yeah! None of you have any clue what a collapsible metal tube does in your day to day brushing habits do you? It's not so much the tube as what's inside it (do you get where I'm going now?) YES Toothpaste in tubes!!! A REVOLUTION (Bring in the singing French people again!) Before the toothpaste tube was invented and marketed Dentifrice as it was known, was only available in liquid or powder form and usually made by individual dentists who sold it in bottles, porcelain pots or paper boxes. But now toothpaste can be mass-produced in factories and sold everywhere. And believe it or not within 20 years this will be the norm.
So even though we now have tubed toothpaste available practically everywhere it still takes 10 years for Willoughby Miller an American dentist working in Germany to in 1890 describe in his new book "Micro-organisms of the Human Mouth" that bacteria are the cause of dental decay. This is what generates a huge interest in oral hygiene and this ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls is the beginning of the world-wide movement to promote regular tooth brushing and flossing!
One part of my job as a dental nurse that I love is looking at x-rays. I can't tell you why, I just love them. Maybe it's because it is a way of looking through things that you can't with the naked eye or because I was pants at those Magic Eye pictures as a kid and this is like the cheat page at the back of the book! either way it's 1895 and Dr Wilhelm Roentgen discovers the X-ray! And no more than a year later the first dental X-ray was taken by New Orleans dentist C. Edmund Kells. The first X-rays weren't a quick beep and you're done, they were a long drawn out process that left the early scientist who discovered them very ill and in some cases deformed! These days the radiation given off by 2 routine dental X-rays is the equivalent to that you would be exposed to on a flight from London to Spain! I know I'd still prefer a Spanish holiday but it does put minds at rest that we are not at risk.
1899 The year that fixed the crooked smile, Edward Hartley Angle classes the differences in individual bites. Your bite is the way your teeth fit together when your jaw is closed. Edward went on to explain how we can fix the incorrect bites that some people have by introducing orthodontics (braces).
Phew the 1800s were manic, but we can really see the leaps and bounds that dentistry has taken I am now in an age where pain is controlled, tools and equipment is motorized and treatments such as orthodontics are becoming more available. I am eager to see what the 20th century has in store for us as so far I am very impressed. If you have any questions about anything dental why not give us a call? Even if we don't know the answer I'm sure we can find it for you. 01280 822 567