Technically, French surgeon Pierre Fauchard is credited as the “Father of Modern Dentistry” and this dates all the way back to 1723 when he published his influential book, “The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth”. We’d be remiss not to mention him due to what he accomplished for the field of dentistry.
In addition to learning about Fauchard’s contributions, we explored the history of dentistry and focused primarily on how it evolved pre-19th century in our previous post. In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at advancements in modern dentistry over time.
From what we know, the earliest version of a toothbrush was made with twigs that were smashed at one end to create bristles. Eventually, toothbrushes with true bristles were created in China and later in the 17th century, Europeans adapted the technology. It may be hard to believe, but the first electric toothbrush was marketed back in the 1880s. However, it wasn’t until after World War II that the Swiss developed an effective model of the electric toothbrush. The concept was brought to the US in the 1960s and, from here, a cordless model was born.
It’s believed that the earliest versions of toothpaste were made from ingredients that included: ground up seashells, powdered fruit, dried flowers, honey and talc. Even less savory recounts claim that toothpaste in some cultures was made from ingredients that ranged from rabbit heads and lizard livers to mice and urine – would you have brushed your teeth with this version of toothpaste?! In fact, some reports of early forms of toothpaste were so corrosive that they actually dissolved tooth enamel. As we reached the 1800s, toothpastes introduced chalk and soap into their recipes; and in 1956, Procter & Gamble came to market with the first toothpaste containing fluoride.
In the 1900s, the concept of adding fluoride to water for dental health benefits came to light. It’s purported that a dentist in Colorado Springs observed that many of his patients who consumed water with a high fluoride content had brown staining on their teeth; however, the plus side was that they also had lower rates of tooth decay. By 1940, a different dentist determined the proper ratio of fluoride to water to help reduce tooth decay while also preventing the staining aspect. About a decade later, testing demonstrated that fluoridated water reduced cavities by up to two-thirds, which was a strong enough data point for the US Public Health Service to urge every state to fluoridate its drinking water. Currently, it’s estimated that approximately 75 percent of Americans drink fluoridated tap water.
Today’s dental implant options have come a long way since false teeth were first used. If you can recall, popular history claims that George Washington had wooden teeth; however, this was not actually true. Because of the corrosive effects of saliva, wooden teeth aren’t an actual possibility. Washington’s false teeth were actually extracted from the mouths of deceased humans and animals and crafted into implants he could wear. Not to fear, this practice wasn’t the standard or the norm. In fact, rotten or damaged teeth during that time period were generally extracted and the patient just embraced the life of having a gapped smile. Also, early dental implants had to be removed before eating as the materials used to secure them in place weren’t strong enough anchors. Fast forward to the late 1700s and early 1800s where we see the implementation of porcelain teeth, platinum pins, ceramics and other advancements. Over time, dentists and technicians refined the design, look, and feel of the teeth, eventually evolving into the dental implants that we know today.
In more recent years, we’ve found ourselves in the digital age. Advancements in digital dentistry go beyond simply revolutionizing an information management system. Newer digital technologies are making visits with dental professionals more efficient, more comfortable, safer, and more reliable. Types of digital dentistry include: intraoral cameras, digital radiography, digitally guided implant surgery, intraoral scanning and CAD technology, and a digital process called CEREC®.
We’re excited to see what the future of dentistry holds and look forward to making a powerful impact on the field in any and every way that we can at HDG!