Pioneers of Modern Dentistry : Part I

Pioneers of Modern Dentistry : Part I

Dentists have been around in the loosest sense probably since the dawn of teeth. However it was lucky dip as to whether the theory and practice resulted in less or more pain. It was not until the late 1800s that dentistry became recognized as a profession and began to be regulated and developed scientifically.

Early Dentistry

  • Historical evidence from the Indus Valley Civilization (now Pakistan/Northwest India), around 7000 BC, shows use of bow drills, early quite primitive tools also used originally for woodworking. So perhaps lacked some precision..
  • Towards 5000 BC, the Sumerians (modern day southern Iraq) blamed 'tooth worms' for all dental issues. These 'worms' supposedly entered through the mouth and bored holes and hid inside teeth. Some early tooth doctors mistook nerves for tooth worms and attempted to yank them out which must have caused excruciating pain. This idea, which seemed logical at the time, persisted and was believed up until the 1700s.
  • Great physicians and philosophers of ancient Greece, Hippocrates and Aristotle, applied more rational thinking and wrote about decay in teeth and extractions to alleviate tooth ache.
  • In a strange twist, barbers in the middle ages (5th to 15th century Europe) doubled as medieval dentists, using forceps style implements to remove infected teeth. Not clear whether this occurred before or after the haircut.

Dentistry Pioneers

Pierre Fauchard

  • Between approx 1650 and 1800 concepts recognisable in modern dentistry began to spread more widely, in big part thanks to this 17th century French physician
    He came to be known as "The Father of Modern Dentistry". a high accolade indeed
  • Fauchard developed further the thought process for dental fillings and used science to explain the role of acids from sugar as playing a major source of tooth decay.

James Rae

  • In 1764, this deacon at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh gave some early recorded lectures on diseases related to the teeth
  • "diseases of the body depending on those of the teeth, thro' all the stages of life … such particularly as affect the head, eye, glands, and neighbouring parts"
  • He later founded the Edinburgh Dental Dispensary with some colleagues.

John Baker

  • In the 1760s this English gentleman became one of the first dentists in America as the discipline became more formalised in the 18th and 19th centuries
  • "He cures the Scurvey in the Gums, first cleanes and scales the Teeth, from that Corrosive, Tartarous, Gritty Substance which hinders the Gums from Growing, infects the Breath, and is one of the principal Causes of the Scurvey, and by degrees (if not timely prevented) eats away the Gums, so that many Peoples Teeth fall out Fresh." ~ Boston Post-Boy, 30 June 1766
  • Many followed and the first book on dentistry appeared in 1801 written by another immigrant, Richard Cortland Skinner
  • Read more about John Baker and his amazing dentifrice as seems he was an early inventor of toothpaste too: Boston 1775.

More pearly white Pioneers of Dentistry to come in Part II in due course..

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