A brief history of dentistry (and what we can learn from it).

Since ancient times, people have sought ways to keep their smiles clean and bright. Of course, some methods work better than others. From brushing with eggshells to George Washington’s famed dentures, oral health has come a long way.

5000 BC

– A Sumerian text touts “tooth worms” as the cause of tooth decay.

Now we know that bacteria in the mouth, which feed on sugar and produce enamel-eroding acid, are to blame.

700 AD

– A medical text in China mentions the use of “silver paste” as a filling.

Though the exact mixture has no doubt changed, silver alloy fillings, called amalgams, are a safe and durable option for filling teeth.

12-1300s

– Barbers don’t just cut hair. Since they already own sharp tools, many are dubbed barber-surgeons, and performed routine dental services including fillings and tooth extractions.

Thankfully, that’s one trend that hasn’t stuck around.

1746

French dentist Claude Mouton recommends white enameling for gold crowns to give a more aesthetic appearance.

Today, tooth-colored, composite fillings are offered, especially for teeth in the front of the mouth.

1790

– Josiah Flagg, a prominent American dentist, constructs the first chair made specifically for dental patients — including an adjustable headrest and an arm extension to hold instruments.

Today, dental offices are constantly looking for ways to make patients more comfortable and improve their visit. Massage chairs, heated neck wraps and paraffin wax treatments can help nervous patients relax.

1896

– A year after the discovery of the x-ray, prominent New Orleans dentist C. Edmond Kells takes the first dental x-ray of a living person in the U.S.

Dental x-rays are still an important part of long-term oral health, as dentists can use this method to monitor alignment and eruption while assessing root health.

1950s

– The first fluoride toothpastes are marketed.

Brushing twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste is a simple, but key part of every oral care routine.


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