Dentistry The Past and The Present

7000 BC – The Bow Drill Era

Dentistry got its start in the Indus Valley of India and Pakistan region. These industrious would-be dentists were master beadmakers who used bow drills to cure tooth problems. This is also the first appearance of dental assistants, whose duties consisted of restraining the flailing arms and legs of patients during the undoubtedly excruciating procedures. Still, this obviously beat a life without teeth.

The First Known Dental Implant

The history of dental implants begins more than 1300 years ago with the ancient Mayans. Back in 600 AD, a young woman was missing some of her lower teeth. The same as any modern woman, she wanted her smile beautified. She received what is perhaps one of the world’s first dental implants. It was made from pieces of shell shaped to resemble teeth.

The Father of Modern Dentistry

In 1723, French surgeon Pierre Fauchard published The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth. He is considered the father of modern dentistry because his book was the first to describe a comprehensive system for caring for and treating the teeth.

Pierre Fauchard (1678 – March 22, 1761) was a significant French physician, credited as being the “father of modern dentistry”. He is widely known for his book, Le chirurgien dentiste, “The Surgeon Dentist” 1728, where he described the basic oral anatomy and function, signs and symptoms of oral pathology, operative methods for removing decay and restoring teeth, periodontal disease (pyorrhea), orthodontics, replacement of missing teeth, and tooth transplantation. His book is said to be the first complete scientific description of dentistry. Fauchard’s text was followed by others who continued to expand the knowledge of the dental profession throughout Europe.

1790 – The First Dental Foot Engine

The first dental foot engine was built by John Greenwood and one of George Washington’s dentists. It was made from an adapted foot-powered spinning wheel.

Dr. John Greenwood (1760-1819) was George Washington’s personal dentist and was responsible for designing Washington’s famous dentures, which were not wood but carved from hippopotamus tusk. He invented the first known “dental foot engine” in 1790.

He was the son of Isaac Greenwood, the first native-born American dentist.

A letter from John Greenwood to Lt. General George Washington on his denture charges, dated 1799, is in the A.D. Black History of Dentistry Collection at Northwestern University.

1790 was a big year for dentistry, as this was also the year the first specialized dental chair was invented. It was made from a wooden Windsor chair with a headrest attached.Simple and effective invention.

1840 – The First Dental School is Founded

Chapin Harris and Horace Hayden founded the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the first school dedicated solely to dentistry. The college merged with the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 1923, which still exists today.

1844 – Nitrous Hits the Scene

Connecticut dentist Horace Wells was the first discover that nitrous oxide can be used as anesthesia. After using it with success on several of his patients in private, he attempted to demonstrate its effects in public, but the demonstration was seen as failure because the patient cried out during surgery. In 1846 one of students, William Morton, would take credit for the discovery after a successful demonstration.


Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas or sweet air, it is a chemical compound with the formula N2O. It is an oxide of nitrogen. At room temperature, it is a colorless non-flammable gas, with a slightly sweet odor and taste. Usually used in surgery and dentistry for its anesthetic and analgesic effects. It is known as “laughing gas” due to the euphoric effects of inhaling it, a property that has led to its recreational use as a dissociative anesthetic. It is also used as an oxidizer in rocketry and in motor racing to increase the power output of engines. At elevated temperatures, nitrous oxide is a powerful oxidizer similar to molecular oxygen.

Nitrous oxide gives rise to NO (nitric oxide) on reaction with oxygen atoms, and this NO in turn reacts with ozone. As a result, it is the main naturally occurring regulator of stratospheric ozone. It is also a major greenhouse gas and air pollutant. Considered over a 100-year period, it has 298 times more impact ‘per unit weight’ (Global warming potential) than carbon dioxide.

The 20th Century

Dentistry has seen a great deal of innovation over the past 100 years. In 1903 Charles Land devised the porcelain jacket crown.

In 1905, Alfred Einhord, a German chemist, discovered Novacain.

Procaine is a local anesthetic drug of the amino ester group. It is used primarily to reduce the pain of intramuscular injection of penicillin, and it was also used in dentistry. Owing to the ubiquity of the trade name Novocain, in some regions procaine is referred to generically as novocaine. It acts mainly by being a sodium channel blocker.

In 1938, the first tooth brush with synthetic nylon bristles hit the market.

In 1945, the water fluoridation era began when the cities of Newburgh, NY and Grand Rapid, MI decided to add fluoride to the public water supply. In 1950, the first fluoride toothpastes are marketed.

In 1951, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon named Per-Ingvar Brnemark came across the concept quite by accident, but a fortuitous accident it was.

Professor Brnemark and his research team were studying microscopic aspects of the bones’ healing process in lab at the University of Lund. During one of their experiments, a titanium metal cylinder was screwed into the thighbone of an animal test subject.

Upon further examination of the bone and metal cylinder, Professor Brnemark observed something surprising: the metal cylinder had fused with the bone.

Researchers came to realize,that Titanium was the only consistently successful material for dental implants. Before Dr. Brnemark’s work, other doctors had been toying with the idea of dental implants for years. A host of other metals, including silver and gold, had failed. Even human teeth (from donors) were tried.

In 1957, John Borden invented the first high speed electric hand drill.

In the 1960s, the first dental lasers are developed and used for soft tissue procedures.

The 1960s also saw the invention of the first electric toothbrush.

The 1990s marks the beginning of the era of cosmetic dentistry, with the increased popularity of veneers, bleaching, and dental implants.

Since then the implants didn’t changed much,they only became more popular.