Did you know barbers were the go-to people for concerns about your teeth? In the past, they not only groomed your face but also extracted and whitened your teeth. It wasn’t until 1840 that the first college Baltimore College of Dental Surgery opened. Today, the United States has over 60 schools and dentistry is considered a specialized practice. Let’s take a look back and see how modern dentistry came to be.
Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, and Floss
- In ancient times chew sticks were used to help keep the mouth clean, they believed that it would get rid of unwanted particles.
- The first toothbrush was made in China in 1498, handles were made from animal bones or bamboo, and the bristles came from the back of a pigs neck.
- In 1824 soap was put into toothpaste and in the 1850s chalk was added.
Nowadays toothbrushes are available in different sizes, shapes, and colors. The handles are plastic and the bristles are made of nylon. Which is a long way from bones and pig hair!
In 1873, Colgate produced the first toothpaste in a jar and by the 1890’s toothpaste was packaged in tubes. Imagine dipping your toothbrush into a jar. Now imagine everyone in your house dipping their toothbrush into that same jar. Doesn’t it just make you appreciate the growth in this field?
In 1815 silk thread was recommended for cleaning in between teeth and by the 1940’s nylon became the standard.
Modern Dental Techniques
Modernized dentistry has greatly reduced the risk for infections and implants, crowns, and bridges, are now common cosmetic procedures. Modern crowns are made of composite, porcelain, and metals. They strengthen damaged teeth and can improve your tooth’s overall shape. Bridges are used to fill the tooth gaps and are secured with a neighboring crown on each side. Today, dentistry is a specialized practice and after earning a dental degree, dentists are required to annually continue their education.
Dental implants are now the standard of care for missing teeth. These titanium roots are placed into your jawbone and fuse over time. Implants can anchor crowns, bridges, and dentures. They’ve gained popularity as they look and feel natural like your own teeth.
- Crowns were made of human teeth, gold, ivory, and bone.
- Bridges were gold and a sign of wealth.
- Whole tooth implants were from deceased lower class citizens, slaves or animals, and infections were common.
- Seashells, sculpted bamboo, and copper were also used.
- Iron pins supported a gold tooth to showcase your riches.
Putting on someone else’s teeth to replace yours is unheard of today because of our modern resources and technologies. Would you consider using people’s teeth to replace yours as resourceful or gross?
In the 1970’s orthodontists said goodbye to headgear and wiring and hello to stainless steel brackets. To fix your bite hooks are placed in your mouth and you will get a pack of rubber bands, slowly adjusting your jaw position with tension over many months.
Giving thanks to new technology we have another option called Invisalign. Packaged as a set of clear plastic aligners, every two weeks you change the tray. There are slight changes to each aligner and your teeth will slowly adjust into the perfect smile of your dreams. Besides not having metal in your mouth, Invisalign is taken out before every meal and snack. Is remembering to take them on and off too much of a hassle?
- One of the first forms of teeth straightening had animal intestines as cords and it wrapped around each individual tooth.
- Gold bands were also used and preferred because they didn’t rust. Silver was also used and wasn’t as expensive.
- Ivory and wood were also used.
Can you believe that current teeth whitening procedures were accidentally discovered? In the past, peroxide was used to help strengthen patient’s gums but they got whiter teeth. Today teeth whitening can be done in office or with a take-home whitening kit from your dentist.
- Ancient Romans used human urine because the ammonia is an amazing stain remover.
- Ancient Egyptians used ground pumice stone and white vinegar to make a whitening paste.
- Barbers could file your teeth down and spread acid on them to help you have a whiter smile.
We have come a long way from pig hair, cadaver teeth and animal intestines in our dental care. Our dentists are highly trained with years of specialized education and we continually work to improve your overall health along with your dental and oral health. Reflecting back to where dentistry once was, we can remember where this field started and appreciate its success. Call us to schedule your appointment today.
Dr. Frederic J. Norkin
South Florida Center for Periodontics & Implant Dentistry