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The History of Dentistry

By Bruce Wilderman on September 20, 2016

An illustration of a toothDentistry has a long history, dating back to as early as 2750 BC, with evidence of small holes drilled in the jaw in skulls found in ancient Egypt. Dentistry has advanced in many ways since the days of ancient dentistry. Today's general dentistry treatments are less painful and more effective than ever before, providing fantastic results and improved oral health. Learn more about the history of dentistry in this overview from Philadelphia, PA dentist Bruce Wilderman.

Ancient Dentistry

Evidence of early dentistry has been found in Egyption skulls dating to about 2750 BC. Small holes were found in the jawbone, near the tooth roots. Experts believe that the holes were made to help drain abscesses. By 500 BC, the Etruscans began performing restorative dentistry procedures, which including the creation of dental bridges and golden partial dentures. The Greeks also practiced dentistry, performing extractions as early as 400 BC. The Chinese also practiced dentistry, with evidence of the use of silver amalgam fillings as early as 200 BC. In Islamic countries, an emphasis on oral hygiene and prevention was fundamental to dentistry. Early Arabic writings also show that teeth scaling and cleaning were performed.

Dentistry in Europe

The practice of all medical disciplines was at a standstill in Europe for about a thousand years following the end of the Western Roman Empire around the year 475. However, barbers (yes, the kind that cut hair), practiced rudimentary surgery and dentistry, including teeth cleaning and extractions. These barbers called themselves barber-surgeons and by the 1600s, many began calling themselves surgeons. By the 1700s, many French surgeons began to only practice dentistry, and in 1728, modern dentistry came to life with Pierre Fauchard's Treatise on the Teeth, a book all about dentistry, including the treatment and diagnosis of oral diseases. In this book, Fauchard also discussed the use of orthodontics, prosthetics, oral surgery, and treating periodontal disease.

Early Dentistry in America

Dentistry in American began in the 1630s, as barber-surgeons joined the settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As dentistry advanced in America, artisans working in ivory began working in dentistry, making dental prosthetics. By the early 19th century, the United States became the world's leader in dental advancement. In 1844, the anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide was discovered by dentist Horace Wells, and in 1846, dentist William Thomas Green Morton showed the effectiveness of ether anesthesia, both of which transformed dentistry. Other technological advances ensued, like a foot-treadle drill and vulcanized rubber for dentures.

Modern Dentistry

Dentistry continued to advance throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, leading to technological improvements, including laser dentistry and micro dentistry, making dental treatment more gentle and less painful than the early days of dentistry. Restorative treatments are also more natural looking and durable than ever before, and more is known about preventing dental damage and oral disease.

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To find out which dental treatments are right for your needs, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Wilderman.

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