Little do people know that the history of dentistry goes back to 7000 B.C., making it one of the oldest medical professions ever. While its history is a long one, it wasn’t until the 1700s that dentistry became a more defined profession. On March 6th, we not only show appreciation to the dentists in our lives but also dentists in history.
At Walton Center for Family Dentistry, we look forward to using this day to show our dedicated dental team our thanks and gratitude. Patients in and around Loganville, Snellville and Grayson, Georgia are welcome to schedule an appointment with our top rated dental practitioners.
Why March 6th?
National Dentist Day has been celebrated on March 6th every year since 1790. Presumably, on this day, an American dentist named John Greenwood invented the first dental foot engine.
Greenwood even served as President George Washington’s dentist and was responsible for creating his dentures. Two of the denture sets Greenwood made for President Washington are still in existence.
March 6th is a day to commemorate the continuing advancement of dental technology, thanks to our dental health specialists.
Dentistry in Its Early Beginnings
The history of dentistry dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization in what is now Pakistan, northwest India and northeast Afghanistan. Writings related to dentistry and tooth decay, however, only came around later in 5000 B.C. And it wasn’t until 1530 when the first book dedicated to dentistry was published.
Much of what we know today about our oral health is all thanks to one of the most famous dentists in history––French surgeon, Pierre Fauchard. Recognized as the “Father of Modern Dentistry,” Fauchard taught us what we know about comprehensive dental care and also introduced us to dental fillings. Because of Fauchard, we can now identify exactly which acids from sugar cause tooth decay to ensure we take better care of our pearly whites.
The First Dentists and Dental Specialists
National Dentist Day is not only a celebration for dentists, but also anyone in the dental field, including but not limited to:
- Dental surgeons
- Pediatric dentists
- Dental assistants
- Dental technicians
- Dental hygienists
- Dental therapists
With every dental specialty comes the history of the first in their field, some of which we explore below.
Who Was the First Dentist?
Hesy-Ra of ancient Egypt was the first recorded dentist in history. Hesy-Ra lived in 2600 B.C. and was admired by Egyptian pharaohs for his incredible work, earning him the name “Chief of Dentists.” Written on his tombstone are the words, “The greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.”
Who Was the First Oral Surgeon?
Simon P. Hullihen’s prior education as a medical doctor gave him many of the tools necessary to perform surgeries and treat issues related to the mouth and head. Throughout his career, Hullihen performed around 1,100 surgeries and even used instruments he invented himself.
Who Was the First Orthodontist?
Truth be told, we’re not entirely sure, though evidence resembling orthodontic work tells us that orthodontics has been around since ancient times. However, it was the work of two French dentists that paved the way for orthodontists today––Pierre Fauchard and Louis Bourdet.
In 1728, Fauchard created a device called the “bandeau” to expand the palate arch. A few years later, Bourdet made modifications and improvements to the bandeau. He also became the first orthodontist to suggest extracting premolars and wisdom teeth to avoid overcrowding and ensure healthy jaw maturation.
American orthodontist, Edward Hartley Angle, came about a century after Fauchard and Bourdet, and pioneered the first system used to identify bite misalignment. He also established the first school dedicated to the study of orthodontia, making it a unique specialty that exists outside of general dentistry.
Who Was the First Pediatric Dentist?
Adults are not the only ones throughout history maintaining their dental health––young children also need their teeth checked regularly. M. Evangaline Jordan was the first dentist to specialize in pediatric dentistry. Though she began her career as a teacher, Jordan spent the summers working as a dental assistant. Inspired by what she learned, she decided to devote her time to studying dentistry in school and, by 1909, was focusing on children’s dental needs.
Jordan helped children overcome their fear and anxiety of visiting the dentist and also emphasized the importance of instilling oral hygiene habits in children.
Who Was the First Prosthodontist?
Prosthodontics also dates back to ancient times in Egypt when gold wire was the standard method used to secure and restore missing teeth. We attribute modern implants, however, to Italian dentist, Manilo Formiggini. Formiggini contributed to what we know today about prosthodontics when he devised a spiral implant made from stainless steel that allowed bone to grow onto the metal.
Who Was the First Female Dentist?
It took many years for women to finally be allowed to go to dental school. Emiline Roberts Jones was the first woman to practice dentistry in the United States. She provided dental services to her husband in secret until 1855, when she officially joined his practice.
In 1866, Lucy Hobbs Taylor became the first woman to earn a degree as a Doctor of Dental Surgery.
The First Everyday Dental Tools
The history of dentistry shows us that societies have been using some of our everyday dental tools for thousands of years.
When Was the First Toothbrush Invented?
Evidence of the first toothbrush dates as far back as 3000 B.C. with the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians using the frayed edges of twigs to keep their teeth clean. Later, in 1498, people in China discovered the first bristle toothbrush designed with boar hairs bound to bone or bamboo handles.
When Was Toothpaste Invented?
In 5000 B.C., early Egyptians were also known to clean their teeth with paste even before they invented toothbrushes. People in China and India were using paste as a method for cleaning teeth as early as 500 B.C.
In 1873, Colgate, a brand we still recognize and love today, began mass producing jarred toothpaste. By 1890, Colgate switched over to collapsible tube packaging.
When Was Dental Floss Invented?
We can trace flossing back to the days when Neanderthals roamed the earth. Looking at the skulls of these prehistoric people, it is clear that they used some sort of tool to pick their teeth.
What’s more surprising is that in the 17th century, toothpicks were considered a luxury item formed from precious metals and stones much like jewelry.
Toothpicks are handy dental cleaning tools, but people were still looking for a better way to remove plaque to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. In 1815, a dentist from Louisiana championed using a thin strand of waxen to clean in between the teeth.
Silk strands of floss were manufactured in 1882 and some 16 years later, Johnson & Johnson patented dental floss and distributed it to the masses.
While it may come as a surprise, it’s clear that even the earliest civilizations were conscious about overall oral health and hygiene.
When Was Mouthwash Invented?
The first mouthwash was mass-produced for commercial use in the late 1800s. Many of the early brands of mouthwash used alcohol as a formula stabilizer. Today, however, we use other liquids to effectively kill any germ buildup in our mouths, such as diluted peroxide and baking soda. Many of our mouthwashes today also contain a germ fighting agent called cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), which is proven to kill germs that cause plaque buildup and gingivitis.
Healthy Smiles for Everyone
A healthy smile doesn’t often come naturally. Sure, there are preventive measures to ensure teeth stay healthy but, for many people, maintaining dental health comes down to routine visits to the dentist.
Here’s what patients can do to help celebrate dentists and all those who work in the dental field:
- Make your dental hygiene a priority by brushing twice a day and flossing every night
- Coach others about good dental habits whether they’re your friends or family
- Visit your dentist twice a year for a routine checkup
- Send a quick email, an e-card, or even snap a photo with your dentist to share on social media, using #NationalDentistDay as a hashtag
- Most importantly––Smile!
There’s no doubt that dentistry has evolved since its very beginnings. Every March 6th, we continue to commemorate dentists in history and all those dental practitioners that play an integral role in our overall oral health. We can thank dentists for keeping our teeth healthy and looking their very best.
If National Dentist Day has inspired you, be sure to contact us at Walton Center for Family Dentistry. Our friendly staff will be happy to set up an appointment for you!