Did you know dentistry is one of the oldest professions in
the medical field? It dates back to
ancient times and became a more defined profession in the 1700s. The
"Father of Modern Dentistry" is Pierre Fauchard who published a book
titled The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth, in 1723. This influential text
defined a complete system for taking care of and treating teeth.
Evidence suggests that the Chinese practiced restorative
dentistry in 200B.C. Other Asian countries also included oral medicine as part
of their regular medical practice. Arabic writings from the same time period
indicate that they cleaned and scaled teeth. The first dental college, the
Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, opened in the United States in 1840, and
politicians in Alabama enacted the first dental practice act in 1841. Other
significant events were the American
Dental Association forming in 1859 and
Harvard establishing the first university dental school in 1867.
The United States became the leading center for dental
developments in the 19th century. Medical anesthesia was developed by dentists
and became widely used by physicians during the Civil War. Advances in the field included the discovery
of anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide and ether as well as the development,
by dentists, of anesthesia equipment . Modern methods of sedation anesthesia for in office dental treatment were developed by dentists.
An American dentist, James Beall Morrison, introduced the foot-treadle drill in
1871l. It gave dentists the ability to remove decay and restore teeth with
various filling materials.
As a practicing Gettysburg dentist of over thirty years,
it’s sometimes interesting to hear stories from some of my older patients. In the early 1980’s, for example, I remember
hearing stories from some of my older Gettysburg patients, who at that time were in their
80’s, of their childhood dentists who used foot powered drills! They told me that their local dentist seldom used
anesthetics and mostly just pulled teeth.
There were no antibiotics and an abscessed tooth could easily become
How lucky we are to live in an age of comfortable,
preventive oriented, dental care! With
modern local anesthetics, sedation anesthesia, and modern, tooth colored
filling materials, almost anyone can have a beautiful smile.
Peter J. Samuels, DDS is a local Gettysburg dentist and a
clinical instructor at the University of Maryland Dental School.