Ancient Origins

5000 BC-201

5000 BC

A Sumerian text of this date describes “tooth worms” as the cause of dental decay.

2600 BC

Death of Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, often called the first “dentist.” An inscription on his tomb includes the title “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.” This is the earliest known reference to a person identified as a dental practitioner.

1700-1550 BC

An Egyptian text, the Ebers Papyrus, refers to diseases of the teeth and various toothache remedies.

500-300 BC

Hippocrates and Aristotle write about dentistry, including the eruption pattern of teeth, treating decayed teeth and gum disease, extracting teeth with forceps, and using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws.

100 BC

Celsus, a Roman medical writer, writes extensively in his important compendium of medicine on oral hygiene, stabilization of loose teeth, and treatments for toothache, teething pain, and jaw fractures.

166-201 AD

The Etruscans practice dental prosthetics using gold crowns and fixed bridgework.

The Beginnings of a Profession – Middle Ages

500-1575

700

A medical text in China mentions the use of “silver paste,” a type of amalgam.

1210

A Guild of Barbers is established in France. Barbers eventually evolve into two groups: surgeons who were educated and trained to perform complex surgical operations; and lay barbers, or barber-surgeons, who performed more routine hygienic services including shaving, bleeding and tooth extraction.

1400

A series of royal decrees in France prohibit lay barbers from practicing all surgical procedures except bleeding, cupping, leeching, and extracting teeth.

1530

The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth (Artzney Buchlein), the first book devoted entirely to dentistry, is published in Germany. Written for barbers and surgeons who treat the mouth, it covers practical topics such as oral hygiene, tooth extraction, drilling teeth, and placement of gold fillings.

1575

In France Ambrose Pare, known as the Father of Surgery, publishes his Complete Works. This includes practical information about dentistry such as tooth extraction and the treatment of tooth decay and jaw fractures.

The Development of a Profession – 18th Century

1723-1790

1723

Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon publishes The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth (Le Chirurgien Dentiste). Fauchard is credited as being the Father of Modern Dentistry because his book was the first to describe a comprehensive system for the practice of dentistry including basic oral anatomy and function, operative and restorative techniques, and denture construction.

1746

Claude Mouton describes a gold crown and post to be retained in the root canal. He also recommends white enameling for gold crowns for a more esthetic appearance.

1760

John Baker, the earliest medically-trained dentist to practice in America, immigrates from England and sets up practice.

1760-1780

Isaac Greenwood practices as the first native-born American dentist.

1768-1770

Paul Revere places advertisements in a Boston newspaper offering his services as a dentist. In 1776, in the first known case of post-mortem dental forensics, Revere verifies the death of his friend, Dr. Joseph Warren in the Battle of Breed’s Hill, when he identifies the bridge that he constructed for Warren.

1789

Frenchman Nicolas Dubois de Chemant receives the first patent for porcelain teeth.

1790

  • John Greenwood, son of Isaac Greenwood and one of George Washington’s dentists, constructs the first known dental foot engine. He adapts his mother’s foot treadle spinning wheel to rotate a drill.
  • Josiah Flagg, a prominent American dentist, constructs the first chair made specifically for dental patients. To a wooden Windsor chair, Flagg attaches an adjustable headrest, plus an arm extension to hold instruments.

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