Just as today’s humans prioritize the health and wellbeing of their teeth and gums, so have the ancestors that have come before us. Dentistry has gone through significant growth, changes, and innovation throughout civilization leading up until today. We’ll explore the long history of dentistry, as well as its innovations and where future technology is taking it.
History of Dentistry: Ancient Origins
The field of dentistry dates back thousands of years ago. Archaeologists found the first sign of someone performing dentistry on a 14,000-year-old molar cleaned from flint tools in prehistoric Italy.1
While this tooth was the earliest sign of someone treating decaying teeth, the first person to refer to themselves as a dentist was Hesy-Re of ancient Egypt. Hesy-Re was an Egyptian scribe who continues to be renowned as the first physician and dental surgeon in history.2
From 500-300 BC in Ancient Greece, both Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote extensively about dentistry. They discussed tactics for treating dental decay, how to extract teeth, stabilizing loose teeth, and gum disease, to name a few of the many topics discussed in their work.3
It is interesting to note that studies found the prevalence of cavities, or tooth decay, was actually at much lower rates in prehistoric humans than people today.4 This can be attributed to both their diet and the fact that they commonly chewed C. rotundus tubers, which has microbial properties.
History of Dentistry: The Middle Ages
Interestingly, in much of the Middle Ages, dental procedures were performed by barbers (primarily tooth extractions) and general physicians, as there was not yet an established dentistry field.5
History of Dentistry: The Modern Age
The age of modern dentistry was born with the help of Pierre Fauchard, a man otherwise known as the “Father of Modern Dentistry” for his industry-shaping textbook on the dental practice.6 This French dentist practiced in the early 18th century and greatly improved dentistry’s standard of care and has the credit of many innovations in orthodontics, periodontics, dental prosthetics, and fillings.
One of the most pivotal moments in modern dentistry was the formation of the American Dental Association (ADA). The founders of the ADA sought to improve the quality of care by dental professionals. Dentist members of the ADA are granted access to a variety of resources to improve their practices. This important organization was founded in 1859 and was led for the first time by William Henry Atkinson.7
Five Crucial Inventions in the History of Dentistry
Five of the most impactful inventions in the history of dentistry include:
#1: Invention of the Dentures
For those who have had a tooth extraction, the invention of dentures and other types of prosthetic teeth have made the acts of speaking, chewing, and smiling more comfortable than ever before. While the first dentures were created in 2,500 BC with animal bone, the first porcelain dentures were created by Alexis Duchâteau in 1770.8
#2: Invention of Dental Fillings
Dental fillings are responsible for treating cavities by filling up the holes of tooth decay to prevent further damages and infection from occurring. The invention of the amalgam filling, dating back to the Tang Dynasty in China (AD 619-907)9, paved the way for the modern composite fillings more commonly used by today’s dentists.
#3: Invention of the Dental X-Ray
The first historical use of a dental x-ray was in 1896. Since then, it has helped countless dentists diagnose and treat a variety of oral health issues.10 Dental X-rays allow dentists and dental hygienists to visualize better jawbone loss, infections in the mouth, and decay and cavities.
#4: Invention of Bonding Material
Bonding material is a game-changing dental invention for improving the appearance of broken, damaged, or decaying teeth. More specifically, cavity composites for tooth fillings help in protecting teeth from exposure to further bacteria. The invention of today’s modern bonding material truly began in the 1950s with Michael Buonocore’s acid-etch technique for bonding in 1955.11
#5: Invention of Dental Implants
The invention of dental implants has forever shaped the dental world. This is because as opposed to removable dentures, implants offer patients a more long-lasting and hassle-free solution for replacing their missing teeth.
This is because implants require a surgical procedure in which a metal post is screwed into the jawbone in place of the missing tooth. Although evidence of dental implant inventions have been around since ancient times, it wasn’t until 1965 that the first titanium dental implant was placed by Branemark, an orthopedic surgeon.12
What is Next in the Future of Dentistry?
Just as the dental practices of today have made great strides since their ancient roots, the future of dentistry is looking bright. As digital technology only continues to improve and progress, there are a lot of exciting new advancements to look forward to in dentistry. A few of the new technologies shaping the future direction of dentistry include:
- 3D printing
- Smart toothbrushes
- Use of augmented reality tools
Get Top Quality Dentistry with Empire Dental Care
Empire Dental Care employs all the latest dental technologies to deliver the best treatment for our patients. Whether it is to schedule your first routine cleaning appointment or inquire about a specific oral health concern, our dentist and dental assistants are here to help. Contact us online or give us a call at 585-671-1650 to schedule your appointment today!