We promise, the history of dentistry is actually pretty interesting! Did you know that dentistry is one of the oldest medical professions? In fact, it dates back to 7,000 B.C. and the Indus Valley Civilization.
Here is a quick timeline to highlight major events in dentistry:
- 5,000 B.C.: Descriptions related to dentistry and tooth decay develop and become available. Fun fact: in the 5000s, there was a Sumerian text that described “tooth worms” as causing dental decay, an idea that wasn’t proven false until the 1700s – thank goodness!
- 1530: Although Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dentistry in ancient Greece, the first book devoted entirely to dentistry wasn’t published until 1530. This book is called “The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth” and was written by Artzney Buchlein. It helped to educate the public about teeth, oral hygiene and gold fillings.
- 1630s: We see the beginnings of dentistry in the US with the settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who were accompanied by barber-surgeons. In fact, one of the first dentists in America was English surgeon and dentist John Baker.
- 1723: Dentistry became a more defined profession in the 1700s. A French surgeon named Pierre Fauchard, who is credited as the Father of Modern Dentistry, published his influential book: “The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth”. It defined how to care for and treat your teeth. Fauchard also introduced the idea of dental fillings and the use of dental prosthesis, and also identified that acids from sugar led to tooth decay.
- 1840: Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the first dental college, opened in 1840 and established the need for more oversight. Today, the institution is headquartered at the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus and still exists as the only dental school in Maryland.
- 1841: In the United States, Alabama led the way by enacting the first dental practice act, which regulates dentistry in the United States. The act called for the assignment of a dentist to the state’s medical board in order to grant licenses for practicing dentistry in the state, however, the act was never enforced, few dentists are ever assigned a seat on the medical board and only a couple of dental licenses are ever granted during the forty years it was on the books.
- 1859: The American Dental Association (ADA) was formed. A group of dentists, 26 to be exact, met in Niagara Falls, New York to create a professional society dedicated to promoting high professional standards and scientific research.
- 1867: Harvard University Dental School was founded and became the first university-affiliated dental institution.
- 1873: Colgate mass produced the first toothpaste. (A few years later, Colgate also mass-produced toothbrushes!)
Here are a few other early dentistry fun facts:
- The first African-American earned a dental degree in 1869;
- The first female dental assistant was employed in New Orleans in 1885;
- Americans did not adopt good brushing habits until after World War II! Soldiers that were stationed abroad brought home the concept of good oral health.
In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at advancements in modern dentistry! As always, if you have any questions about your dental health or oral health, contact us – we’re here and happy to help!