is one of the oldest medical professions, dating back to 7000 B.C. with the Indus
Valley Civilization. However, it wasn’t
until 5000 B.C. that descriptions related to dentistry and tooth decay were
available. At the time, a Sumerian text
described tooth worms as causing dental decay, an idea that wasn’t proven false
until the 1700s!
In ancient Greece,
Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dentistry, specifically about treating
decaying teeth, but it wasn’t until 1530 that the first book entirely devoted
to dentistry—The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities
of the Teeth—was published.
By the 1700s, dentistry had
become a more defined profession. In
1723, Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon credited as the Father of Modern
Dentistry, published his influential book, The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on
Teeth, which for the first time defined a comprehensive system for caring for
and treating teeth. Additionally,
Fauchard first introduced the idea of dental fillings and the use of dental
prosthesis, and he identified that acids from sugar led to tooth decay.
In 1840, the first dental
college (Baltimore College of Dental Surgery) opened, establishing the need for
more oversight. In the United States,
Alabama led the way by enacting the first dental practice act in 1841, and
nearly 20 years later, the American Dental Association (ADA) was formed. The
first university-affiliated dental institution, the Harvard University Dental
School, was founded in 1867.
By 1873, Colgate had mass
produced the first toothpaste, and mass-produced toothbrushes followed a few
What may come as a surprise
is that the first African American to earn a dental degree dates all the way
back to 1869, and the first female dental assistant was employed in New Orleans
in 1885. What might be most surprising of all is that most Americans did not
adopt good brushing habits until after World War II, when soldiers stationed
abroad brought the concept of good oral health back to the United States!
Fun Teeth Facts
was an Egyptian scribe who lived around 2600 B.C. and is recognized as the
first dental practitioner.
Revere, famous for warning Colonial troops that the British were coming, was
also trained as a dentist by America’s first dentist, John Baker.
H. Angle, who started the first school of orthodontics in 1901, created a
simple classification for crooked teeth in the late 1800s, a system still in
The first dental X-ray was
used in 1896.