Dentistry is one of the oldest medical professions, with origins dating back to 7000 BC. While there could be (and have been) encyclopedias of information about the history of dentistry, we wanted to highlight a couple interesting facts and pivotal points in the timeline of the dentistry profession. From it’s ancient beginnings to historical figures you may not have known were dentists, you’re sure to learn something from our brief history of dentistry.
Dentistry dates back to ancient Egyptian and ancient Roman times. The first recognized dental practitioner was an Egyptian named Hesy-Re who lived around 2600 BC. We are able to draw conclusions to his dental practice due to the fact that he was also a scribe of the time.
In ancient Greece, both Aristotle and Hipporcrates have written about dentistry. Some of their work mentions how to treat decay and gum disease, and even how to extract teeth and how to stabilize loose teeth.
During the span of the middle ages, countries across the world made discoveries in dentistry and progressed the practice. A medical text in China makes mention of what we believe to be a type of amalgam. In the modern day, amalgams are a popular type of metal filling. In the Chinese text dating back to the middle ages, a silver paste was likely used to fill cavities in a similar way that we do today.
Meanwhile in Europe, texts about dentistry were also being published. In Germany, The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth was the first published book devoted entirely to the practice of dentistry. During the middle ages in France, Ambroise Pare published his medical text, Complete Works. Today, Pare is still widely regarded as the Father of Surgery, and was one of the first to introduce the implantation of teeth.
By the 18th century in France, another French surgeon Pierre Fauchard published his own text specifically on dental surgery. This work, The Surgeon Dentist is published in 1723, earns Fauchard the title of the “Father of Modern Dentistry” because it was the first to detail many different aspects of dentistry including information about oral anatomy, techniques for operation and restoration, as well as denture construction.
Over in the United States, our very own Paul Revere worked as a dentist. Even during his time serving as a Patriot during the Revolutionary War, he was able to put his dental knowledge to good use. In 1776, Revere verified the death of his friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, by the bridge he had placed in his mouth. Even today, this is one of the first known cases of post-mortem dental forensics.
More developments in dentistry span the course of the 19th Century. In 1801, the first dental book was published in America: the Treatise on the Human Teeth by Richard C. Skinner. By 1885, the first female dental assistant was employed in New Orleans. That same year, Emeline Roberts Jones became the first woman in the United States to practice dentistry. Five years later, Ida Green, the first African-American woman to earn a dental degree, graduates from the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry.
While dentistry has progressed significantly from its founding, there are certain practices that we continue to use today. For more dental tips, history and facts, follow along with our social media!