history dentistry facts

7 Fun Facts About the History of Dentistry

A trip to the dentist today is much different than it was thousands of years ago, to say the least! Here are 7 fun facts about the history of dentistry that will make you appreciate all the technology in dentists’ offices these days.

1. Tooth Decay Used to Be Blamed On “Tooth Worms”

The first historical reference to dentistry that we are aware of happened in 5000 BC, according to a Sumerian text. We are not entirely sure what they meant by “tooth worms,” as it was a very different time, but it’s a pretty disturbing mental image, isn’t it?

2. Barbers Used to Pull Teeth

Back in the Middle Ages, “barber-surgeons” were the people you would visit in order to get your face shaved and your teeth pulled. While the efficiency may be something to admire, it sounds like a fairly bloody trip overall and probably made for a pretty painful afternoon for the customers.

3. Paul Revere Was a Dentist

He may be most known for his role in the American Revolutionary War, but Paul Revere was also a dentist. He was responsible for the first known case of post-mortem dental forensics, as he was able to identify his fallen friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, by the bridge he had put into his mouth before he passed.

4. The First Power Drills Were Powered by Feet

One of George Washington’s dentists invented the “dental foot engine” by turning his mother’s spinning wheel into something that could rotate a drill fast enough to get through the first president’s mouth. Sounds like quite a workout!

5. Novocaine Wasn’t Invented Until 1903

German chemist Alfred Einhorn formulated the first known local anesthetic and called it procaine, but these days we know it as Novocaine, as it is trademarked. We use dental anesthetic every day in our office and not a day goes by where we don’t think about all the people before this time who had to brave dental work without it.

6. Dentists Didn’t Used to Use Both Hands

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1960s when “sit down, four hands” dentistry became the norm. The technique that we use today is much more reliable and comfortable. We certainly wouldn’t want to turn back the clock on this technique!

7. High Speed Dentistry Started in the 1950s

The length of time needed to perform what are now considered routine procedures was decreased considerably when John Borden introduced the Airotor in 1957. It could reach speeds of up to 300,000 rotations per minute!

Has it been awhile since you’ve been to the dentist? Dentistry has come a long way, and here at Davis Gribble Hollowwa, we stay up to date to offer you the latest and best dental technology available so that your visits with us can be as painless and pleasant as possible. Learn more about our services.

Author Info

Dr. Connor Hollowwa

Dr. Connor Hollowwa is an Albuquerque native. He graduated from the Albuquerque Academy and went on to receive a BA from Rice University. His Doctorate of Dental Surgery is from Creighton University School of Dentistry. Before joining private practice he practiced at the state-of-the-art Isleta Health Center’s Dental Clinic, providing modern dental care for the members of the Pueblo of Isleta. In his free time he enjoys playing the piano, fly-fishing, golfing, and skiing.