The Evolution of Denistry
In this day and age a dental appointment may consist of walking into an office, having x-rays done, hearing the buzz of some instruments cleaning your pearly whites and receiving a fluoride treatment.
Often times, we are ignorant to the history of the process. In turn, we do not appreciate how much these processes have evolved and how easy some things have become. Years ago, dental maintenance was almost unheard of. Dentists did not always exist; one may get a tooth pulled after getting a haircut from the local barber. Dental practices date as far back as prehistoric times. With advancements in knowledge, there have been advancements in practice.
Dental work has varied from prehistoric times to the eighteenth century, to the nineteenth and twentieth century and advancements are still being made today. Dentistry has evolved over the years because of the knowledge available to people and the growing importance society is putting on dental hygiene. Today, general dentists undergo years of schooling. They earn a college degree and go on to dental school to earn their professional doctorate degree to begin practicing. There are several specialties that require some extra years of schooling as well.
New advancements in dentistry are always being discovered from institutions like the American Dental Association and many more research establishments. Dental researchers are actively looking for new and more effective ways to treat dental patients, other ways to detect problems sooner and different causes and effects on teeth. Before the nineteenth century when America took the lead, France was the leading country in dental treatment. Since then new findings have become more and more important. Dentistry was one of the earliest medical practices in the world.
“Some have speculated that dentistry was practiced before medicine” (“Eighteenth-Century”). Dentistry was important even before people were able to realize how essential dental care is even though they did not stress oral hygiene anywhere near as much as we do now. During prehistoric times, dental work was done for very extreme cases that caused a mass amount of pain. In the middle ages monks and barbers reigned over the dental field. The majority of dental work done during this time period was surgical, done to relieve extreme pain.
After a while monks were no longer allowed to provide dental services. “During the Middle Ages monks acted as physicians and dentists, with barbers as assistants. The barbers had to take over completely when … the pope ruled that shedding of blood was not a priestly function” (“Eighteenth-Century”). Monks had been deemed fit to render medical service because they were considered to be among the most educated people during the Middle Ages. Since barbers shaved their heads very often, they were together a lot.
Therefore the two were a good duo to serve as dentists and dental assistants at the time. Monks were the first recognized people that serviced dental needs, although they were not trained, the evidence of their work was very important to the future of dentistry. Dental practices have evolved a lot over time and the changes that have occurred have all been important to the overall process. One example of prehistoric dental findings had astounding value. “The results showed the tooth was worn, exposing an area of dentin, and also bore a vertical crack in the enamel and dentin layers, the upper part of which was filled with beeswax” (Paddock). During prehistoric times and middle ages people used their teeth for a lot, which wore them out fast.
Dental remedies utilized natural products of the Earth. Since people during this time did not have access to machinery and material to aid their work, they used things found in nature to the best of their ability. This finding may have influenced some research on natural materials and their effectiveness in dental work. During the eighteenth century dental research sparked proper practice in different parts of the world. During the eighteenth century, dentists were still far and few between, but the French became leaders in the dental field. The French had a spark of interest in dental work, which led to several advances in knowledge and research.
“The eighteenth century saw the rise of France as the world leader in the field of dentistry. The outstanding dentist of the era was Pierre Fauchard” (“Eighteenth-Century”). Fauchard was known for his scientific dental discoveries. He published a two-volume work about different dental topics. Fauchard’s findings and procedures further inspired the interest of dental work in many other areas of the world.
“In 1791 de Chement was in America establishing the first dental clinic in New York City” (“Eighteenth-Century”). The first place of dental practice was set up during this time period in America. This was a huge step in the advancement of dentistry in the world. It also set America up to become the leading country in dental treatment. During the nineteenth century things continued to evolve in the field.
The nineteenth century brought about a change in the way dental work was being done. Research facilities started being set up and people started to realize the importance of oral hygiene. “Developed in the 1990’s, digital x-rays, termed digital radiography, are slowly finding their way into dentists’ offices” (“New Frontiers”). These tools made finding problems early and fixing them a lot easier, they continue to help dentists all over the world today. Without the addition of these machines, dentists would have to wait to actually see a problem and the effects of it before being able to fix or prevent it. Diagnostic procedures would be uncertain and very difficult and preventative measures would be arbitrarily deemed necessary.
After some time and observation, oral hygiene gained importance. “After the war, improving dental health of the population became a priority in the U.S. and in Europe” (“New Frontiers”). During the war, recruitment into the military was a huge problem because soldiers had to have twelve teeth to pass. Since oral care was obviously neglected before it escalated into a problem, it was time to fix it.
The newfound importance placed on oral hygiene drastically boosted new findings in dentistry and the volume of people that would seek dental care. Today, this importance remains and new knowledge and equipment has made it easier to fulfill the dental service needs of the world. Dentistry had developed to this point in modern day thanks to the knowledge and practices from the past. Today, dentists and dental specialists have a pretty good idea of what works and what does not. Plus, dental researchers are always working to find even more new information. One research case completed in 2007 demonstrates the effectiveness of fluoridated water in preventing tooth decay (“New Frontiers”).
Adding fluoride to water helps stop 27% of dental carries, which is a significant percentage. This discovery is very helpful; by fluoridating water supply dental hygiene can be significantly improved. Equipment has been a huge stepping-stone in new dental methodology. “Today in dentistry, we have machines to identify our problem areas, to see teeth before they erupt, and to drill and fill painful cavities” (Jill). All of these pieces of equipment have made dentistry more efficient than it once was. Without advancements in dentistry and tools, dental work may still be being completed with beeswax or may fail to make a meaningful impact.
Dental visits today involve x-rays, drills and other fancy machines; thousands of years ago though, a visit was a simple yet painful trip to the local barber. Dentistry has evolved over the years because of the knowledge available to people and the growing importance society has put on dental hygiene. Dentistry began with a simple beeswax filling completed near the time of someone’s death. Over time, dental work and oral hygiene became more and more of a concern and interest. Through the research and experimentation of many different contributors, we have identified effective methods to maintain, treat and prevent problems for our pearly whites. Dentistry has without a doubt come a very long way, and it is still progressing as you read.
This is all thanks to the trials and errors of our ancestors, researchers that work day and night and normal people like you and I that have had a spark of interest in changing the way dentistry is done. Works Cited “Eighteenth-Century Advances in Dentistry.” Science and Its Times. Ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer.
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