The ‘Roots’ of Dentistry: How Thousands of Years of Work Has Led to Your Smile

The ‘Roots’ of Dentistry: How Thousands of Years of Work Has Led to Your Smile
dental care

It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without dental care but modern oral health care and cosmetic dentistry is a fairly new practice, at least by the standards we consider “dental care” today.

After all, some experts claim that we’ve been using dental tools as early as the Stone Age. It’s only thanks to the countless innovations and advances in technology we’ve seen over the last century, almost everyone can showcase a bright, healthy-looking smile.

If you’re curious about the history of dentistry, here’s everything you need to know about this ever-growing practice.

Early roots

Though many of us consider dentistry to be a fairly modern practice, it’s actually one of the oldest professions around. In fact, it was as early as 5,000 BCE that one Sumerian text proffered that tooth decay was caused by the presence of “tooth worms.” It might sound silly by today’s standards, but this theory actually wasn’t proven false until the 1700s.

But the first person to be considered a dentist was Hesy-Re. The Egyptian scribe lived in 2600 BCE. With the inscription “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians” presented on his tomb, no earlier reference to this practice has yet been discovered. Ancient Egyptians continued to write about tooth diseases and remedies for toothaches through the 1550s BCE.

But Ancient Greeks weren’t to be outdone. They were among the first to write about dentistry, with Hippocrates and Aristotle leading the charge. But they didn’t only write about tooth diseases and other dental care issues; these two also wrote of the eruption pattern of teeth, gum disease, tooth extraction with the help of forceps, and even using wires to stabilize loose teeth, a procedure reminiscent of modern-day braces.

Dentistry: The evolution of the profession

It wasn’t until the 1210s AD that dentistry was considered a true profession. At this time, France developed its first Guild of Barbers, but these individuals did not work with hair. The Guild of Barbers were surgeons who inevitably branched into two segments of work: surgeons who performed complex operations and barber-surgeons who performed hygienic services pertaining to maintenance.

But dentistry truly came into its own with the help of Pierre Fauchard, the Father of Modern Dentistry. Thanks to his book, “The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth,” dentists everywhere had an in-depth look at practicing basic dentistry. This 1723 book described such topics covered included oral anatomy, the construction of dentures, and restorative procedures to improve the patient’s dental care.

From there, the dentistry industry continued to expand. Only 20 years later, Claude Mouton was able to invent the gold crown and post, two necessary components to aiding dental care after a root canal procedure. A brief 50 years after that, Nicolas Dubois de Chemant invented the first porcelain teeth, an idea which Samuel Stockton began innovating on and manufacturing commercially in 1825.

The highway to modern dentistry

By 1840, the world’s first dental school was opened by Horace Hayden and Chapin Harris in Baltimore, known as the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. From there, the floodgates opened. Only one year later, Alabama was the first location to enact a dental practice act, calling for licensure regarding dentistry and the American Dental Association was established in 1859. The first university-affiliated institution for dentistry was officially formed in 1867 thanks to the establishment of the Harvard University Dental School.

It’s no surprise that dental care powerhouse Colgate was one of the earliest names in dental health care. This brand was the first to mass-produce toothpaste in 1873 and countless toothbrushes soon followed a few years later. Thanks to the help of fluoridated water and countless dental innovations, dental care resources continued to witness innovation throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.


Today, more than 15 million people throughout the United States alone have crowns and bridges for missing teeth. Countless others have invested in new products that are hitting the market, including Invisalign and other cosmetic dentistry procedures.

You can rest assured that you’re in good hands when you visit the Lake Ridge VA dentists you can trust. For more information about the history of dental care and how you can improve your smile, rely on the expertise of Lake Ridge Dental today.

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