Toothbrushes Used to Be Made from WHAT?! A Look Back at the History of Dentists

Posted on: May 22, 2013 | Blog

Nowadays, going to the dentist is such a normal part of people’s every day lives that we often forget that dental care didn’t always used to be quite as straightforward (not to mention pain-free). As recent as a few hundred years ago, many believed a toothache was caused not by cavities, but by evil spirits. Yes, the history of dentistry is certainly an interesting one. The following is a look back at the world’s first dentists and how the dental industry came to be what it is today.

The First Dentists

The first dentist in recorded history is Hesy-Ra. He bore the title of “Chief of Dentists and Physicians.” It is unknown exactly what his dental practices were like. We can only imagine the different tools he used and how painful it must have been for the patients.

The First Toothbrush (Made From a Stick!)

The Romans are the first reported to have had a tooth cleaning method. The toothbrush during this time was a stick. They would chew the end of it and use the fibers to scrub their teeth.

5 chewing sticks

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The First Fillings (Made Using Spider Eggs!)

In 15 AD, famous physician Archigenes made a profound statement that toothaches were caused from the inside of the tooth. He created a special drill that would get to the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth. Believe it or not, he used a mixture of  roasted earthworms, spikenard (a medicinal plant), and spider eggs to fill the tooth. Be thankful dentists no longer use this method!

In the middle ages, dentistry was still not considered a profession. Instead, barbers and general physicians performed dental surgeries. How crazy to think of a barber pulling your teeth! 

Painting of a renaissance dentist performing dental surgery

The First Modern Dentist

Pierre Fauchard is said to be the father of modern dentistry. His amazing discoveries include fillings for cavities, attributing sugar to the cause of tooth decay, using ivory and bone to make substitute teeth, and even inventing braces using a gold wire! If it wasn’t for this man, who knows how our teeth would look today?

First Dentistry College

Horace Hayden and Chapin A. Harris set the foundation for the profession of dentistry. Together they established the world’s first dental college: Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. This opened in 1840 and is still around today as part of the University of Maryland.

Logo of Baltimore College of Dental Surgery

Photo courtesy of Baltimore College of Dental Surgery

Prevention Method

Dr. Greene Vardiman Black is most commonly known for his principles of the proper methods to prepare teeth for fillings.  Black coined the phrase “extension for prevention,” which is still used by dentists today. This represents his idea that dentists should incorporate preventive measures against the grooves and pits of teeth.

Invention of Laughing Gas

Dr. Horace Wells is credited with the invention of inhalation anesthesia, commonly known as laughing gas.  Now we can get fillings without feeling pain!

Now there is no fear in going to the dentist. Their tools are revolutionized to provide a quick and painless experience. Next time you visit your dentist, enlighten him/her with your new knowledge of the history!

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