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History of Dentistry

Early Evidence of Dental Treatment- Egypt

The history of dentistry dates back to ancient times. Skulls from Egyptian people dated as far back as 2900 B.C. depict small holes created where tooth roots once were. These holes were probably created to drain abscesses. False teeth date back to 700 B.C., where the Etruscans designed them from ivory and bone and secured them with gold bridgework. Ancient dentistry also traces back to the Greek people who practiced tooth extractions around 400 B.C.

Dr. John Greenwood- Son of First American Born Dentist Dr. Issac Greenwood

Dentistry in America

American dentistry began in the 18th century. John Baker, who arrived from England in 1760, was the first dentist to practice in this country. Baker trained American legend Paul Revere, who made a positive identification on a general’s body by his two artificial teeth.

The first native-born American dentist, Isaac Greenwood, began practicing dentistry in 1779. Greenwood was the dentist responsible for designing George Washington’s famous dentures, which were carved from a hippopotamus tusk (not from wood, as the legend states).

Modern Dentistry

The world’s first dental college opened at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1840. This school made the United States a leader in world dentistry, as it provided a formal education to those interested in becoming a present-day Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS).

A lack of government regulation prompted a group of 26 dentists to meet at Niagara Falls and form the American Dental Association in 1859. Eight years later, the Harvard Dental School was founded as the nation’s first university-affiliated dental school, offering a degree of Dentariae Medicinae Doctorae (DMD). This new title began the ongoing debate between the titles of DMD and DDS.

Dr. Greene Vardiman Black- Lincoln Park, Chicago, Il

Despite the other influential dentists in the United States, Greene Vardiman Black was the leading reformer of American dentistry. Black’s accomplishments include:

  • Publishing a monumental two-volume dissertation, Operative Dentistry, in 1908 that remained the essential clinical dental text for 50 years
  • Creating a foot engine that allows dentists to power their drill with both hands
  • Developing modern techniques for fillings teeth
  • Standardizing operative procedures and instrumentation
  • Pioneering the use of visual aids for teaching dentistry
  • Identifying a dense bacteria coating on the teeth and proposing that it led to gum disease (this theory was not confirmed until the 1960s)

The Future of Dentistry

Advances in technology and materials continue improving the field of dentistry. Better-quality materials will allow you to enjoy a healthier smile that lasts decades, even the rest of your life. Technological advances will allow dentists to more accurately diagnose your condition and find better treatments in a more cost-effective manner. Laser technology that works to eliminate areas of infected tissue and to weld together damaged parts of your tooth will become increasingly common.

Also, as and technology expands, more and more dental professionals are beginning to partner together to share the expense of innovative but costly equipment. Dental therapy is also on the rise in settings such as hospitals, clinics and cancer centers. This is prompting dentists to enter these medical environments to provide specific services.

March 26, 2010  24-7PressRelease Sara Goldstein

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