The History of Dentistry

What we know as dentistry today has been practiced for much longer than many people think. In fact, the dental tools we’ve come to recognize were first used as early as the Stone Age! Of course, with advances in technology, such tools–and the practice of dentistry itself–have significantly improved in safety and efficiency with helping patients with their dental care needs. Here are some other historical facts you might not have heard about dentistry and its origins.

Early Beginnings

Dentistry in ancient origins was quite advanced for the time. For example, the first dental “diagnosis” comes from 5000 BC, with the Sumerians who had text that described “tooth worms” as the root cause of tooth decay.

  • The first dental “diagnosis” comes from 5000 BC, with the Sumerians who had text that described “tooth worms” as the root cause of tooth decay.
  • The earliest known reference to a dental practitioner is from 2600 BC, an Egyptian scribe by the name of Hesy-Re.
  • Around 1700-1550 BC, the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus was found to refer to multiple diseases of the teeth as well as treatments for toothaches.
  • By 500-300 BC, Hippocrates and Aristotle write about dentistry in detail, including the eruption pattern of teeth, extracting teeth, and using wires to stabilize loose teeth.
  • In 100 BC, Celsus—a Roman medical writer—writes in more detail about oral hygiene, stabilizing loose teeth, and treatments for common dental problems.
  • The first dental prosthetics were created by the Etruscans between 166-201 AD, introducing gold crowns and fixed bridges to what we know as dentistry today.

The Beginnings of a Profession

By the middle ages (1210-1400), dentistry really began to take its form as a profession as society began to discover new forms of treatment for teeth conditions and more and more people were working in hygienic services within the medical field, including teeth extraction. And then in 1530, the first book dedicated to dentistry alone was written by Artzney Buchlein, titled Little Medicinal Book of All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth.

In the 18th century, Pierre Fauchard—a French surgeon—wrote a more comprehensive book about the practice of dentistry, including the anatomy of the mouth and teeth and their functions, restorative and operative techniques, and even the construction of dental devices such as dentures.

Eruption of Dental Practices

Before long, dental practices began to pop up in various places around the world; John Baker immigrated to America from England to set up the first dental practice in the country in 1760. From there, different people began to improve the efficiency of the dental practices with different inventions, such as Josiah Flagg’s invention of the dental chair in 1790, which was able to hold different instruments.

19th Century Dentistry and Beyond

And this is only the beginning of how far dentistry has come; by the 19th century, advances in education and science allowed practicing dentists to perfect their craft and come up with new treatments and solutions for dental problems. The innovative 20th century brought some of the dental tools we’ve come to know today, including the modern toothbrush and electric toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, and tooth-colored dental materials.

Today, society gets to reap the benefits of the amazing dental discoveries those before us have made that have allowed us to have healthier, brighter teeth; we have our ancestors to thank for our great oral health!