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History of Dentistry

Young child with dentist coat on at Excellent Dental Specialists.While the study and practice of dentistry (as we know it) may seem like a recent development, that actually could not be further than the truth. Modern dentistry has much to owe to our ancestors, who experimented and perfected many of the dental procedures that we provide today. When we perform a routine diagnostic or maintenance procedure, we are building on the thousands of years of dentistry that occurred before and brought us to where we are today. We here at Excellent Dental Specialists are pleased to offer you the highest quality of dental healthcare, and we know we have our ancient predecessors to thank!

The Origins of Dental Medicine

Dentistry can trace its roots back to ancient Italy and the introduction of farming. As carbohydrate consumption increased, so did tooth decay. Around 14,000 years ago, an ancient Italian civilization discovered they could clean teeth with flint rock and used their rustic tools to try to clear away decay from an infected tooth.

If we move forward in time a few thousand years, we can land around 7,000 B.C., to the Indus Valley Civilization. These people learned that teeth could be cleaned out with a crude type of dental drill called a bow drill. While it was meant to help bore wood, it was discovered that it could also cut channels into teeth. They probably did not use local anesthetic during their procedures, however!

It took another 2,000 years before any documentation of tooth decay was officially noted. The Sumerians wrote texts that reflected upon cavities and decided that it was caused by a specific type of creature known as a tooth worm. They believed that worms were boring into the tooth and hiding there. This incorrect notion prevailed for thousands of years and was not even debunked until the 1700s!

Aristotle and Hippocrates discussed relieving dental pain by removing an infected tooth around 350-400 B.C., in ancient Greece. This belief continued strong throughout the middle ages, where barbers would also moonlight as dentists and would remove teeth with forceps to help patients with toothaches.

Finally, dentistry started to evolve into a semblance of modern dentistry in the mid-1600s. A French physician by the name of Pierre Fauchard became known as “The Father of Modern Dentistry” and presented some of the many ideas that we still hold onto today. For instance, he was the first to describe dental fillings, and he also made a connection between diet and tooth decay.

Commercial Toothpaste Came Later

The first commercial toothpaste was invented by Colgate in 1873, and twelve years later, the commercial toothbrush was invented. Interestingly, the idea of taking good care of your teeth did not take hold until around the end of World War II, when returning soldiers shared with Americans how other countries took care of their teeth. Now, we of course strongly advise that everyone brushes twice a day and flosses daily, but back then, this was a novel concept!

If you find the history of dentistry as fascinating as we do and you would like to learn more about it, or you would like to set up an appointment with us here at Excellent Dental Specialists, please give us a call today at (210) 598-8933!

Excellent Dental Specialists
14500 San Pedro Ave, Suite 200
San Antonio, TX 78232
(210) 598-8933
Excellent Dental Specialists
2020 Babcock Rd, Suite 10
San Antonio, TX 78229
(210) 598-8933
Excellent Dental Specialists
6961 Hwy 87 East
San Antonio, TX 78263
(210) 598-8933
Excellent Dental Specialists
1583 East Common Street, Suite 200
New Braunfels, TX 78130
(210) 598-8933
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