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The Story of Tooth: A Dental History Timeline

Jul 08, 2014

By Felicia Papier

“Tooth” be told, everyone should know the basics of dental hygiene; unfortunately, many do not. We have written about the origins of the toothbrush and how to care for it. We have given you the rundown of foods to eat and those not to (refer to just last week!). We have given you a million ways to care for your teeth. People still just don’t understand… 

 Maybe if we show you that dental care has been important since the pyramids were built and that people have worked hard over the centuries to make their smiles bright, you might take your oral health a little more seriously. Because even King Tut needed to see the dentist and he was a pretty serious dude.

Steve Martin as King Tut on Saturday Night Live

Let’s brush up on some dental history highlights over the centuries:

Ancient Tooth Facts:

  • 5000 BC – Sumerian text describes dental decay from “tooth worms.”
  • 2600 BC – Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, dies. He was deemed the first person labeled as a “dentist.”
  • 500-300 BC – Hippocrates and Aristotle write about the formation and eruption patterns of teeth, how to treat decaying gums and how to fix a fractured jaw. You know, because those ancient philosophers were known for rousing fist fights…

    Wait! We have a Profession Here! – Dental Beginnings in the Middle Ages:

  • 700 – In China, a medical text uses the phrase “silver paste” as a type of amalgam.
  • 1201 – In France, they started letting barbers extract teeth.  “Just the normal, Francois. A close shave, a haircut and take out my eye teeth, s’il vous plait. Merci!”
  • 1575 – Frenchman, Ambrose Pare publishes writings which include information on dental health.

    Nurturing a Profession – 18th Century:

  • 1723 – French surgeon, Pierre Fauchard, publishes ”The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth,” and is described as the Father of Modern Dentistry since his book gives a comprehensive look at the practice of oral care and procedures. It even covers denture construction which one of our Founding Fathers, George Washington, found handy.  (Again, see last week’s post! You are going to win at team trivia, we feel It!)
  • 1760 – Dentistry comes to America.  John Baker, a medically trained British dental professional sets up shop.
  • 1768 – 1770 – Paul Revere starts advertising that not only is he a blacksmith, he is a dentist!  He also was pretty good at the public service announcement.  Interesting fact: Revere verified the death of his friend, Dr. Joseph Warren in the Battle of Breed’s Hill in 1776 by a dental bridge that Revere constructed for him.  Voila! Dental Forensics was born.
  • 1790 – The Dentist’s office comes alive; John Greenwood (aka. George Washington’s dental guy) and Josiah Flagg create tools for improving the dental experience. Greenwood constructs the “dental foot engine” which he adapted from his mother’s spinning wheel to rotate a drill. Flagg makes the first dental chair for his patients complete with a head rest and arm rest extension for all of his tools.

    For the Love of Science – 19th Century:

  • 1825 – Porcelain teeth are commercially manufactured thanks to the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company created by Samuel Stockton.
  • 1839 – Charles Goodyear invents the vulcanization process for hardening rubber.  This material, Vulcanite, easily molds to the mouth and makes an inexpensive base for false teeth.  It becomes a dentist’s dream material.
  • 1859 – Twenty-six dentists meet in Niagara Falls, NY and form the American Dental Association.
  • 1880s – Tube toothpaste started to revolutionize the tooth brushing world. Dentists had been known to make their own dental cleaning solutions, but with the discovery of collapsible metal tubing, toothpaste could be mass produced, marketed and sold nation-wide.

    Techniques and Technology – 20thCentury:

  • 1905 – Novocain is invented.  Thank goodness.
  • 1913 – The Fones Clinic for Dental Hygienists opens in Connecticut.  Most of the 27 women graduates from Fones were hired later to clean the teeth of school children.
  • 1938 – Nylon.  Not just for stockings anymore!  Nylon toothbrushes hit the market for a better brushing experience.
  • 1945 – Sodium fluoride is added to the water in New York and Michigan to help strengthen teeth.
  • 1958 – Trips to the dentist get more “comfortable” with the first fully reclining dental chair.
  • 1989 – The first commercial home teeth bleaching product is marketed to the public.
  • 1997 – The FDA approved the erbium YAG laser, the first for use on dentin, to treat tooth decay. 

    There have been so many more advances in dental health and well being since 1997 that we could write all day.  Many people throughout history have worked on advancing dental health.  It is our duty as human beings to smile brightly at those around us, and having great teeth to show off is a bonus!  Take care of your pearlies and your smile by brushing 2 times a day for at least 2 minutes and see your dental professional often.  If you don’t have a dental insurance plan, we know where you can get one for a good price!  Keep on smiling everyone! 


  • Sources: ada.org, snl.com

    Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC



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