Do you have any fears or apprehensions going to the dentist? Is the thought of a filling or a root canal something you avoid? Just be glad you didn’t have to resort to digging out your own cavities with stone tools, as seems to be the case in a recently found 13,000 year old skeleton! The discovery revealed teeth that had large holes in the surface, seemingly made by the scraping and twisting of a hand held tool. This is believed to be from an infected tooth, and the individual was trying to get rid of the pain and the decayed tissue. Inside of these holes were traces of bitumen, which is a tar-like substance, and this could be one of the earliest fillings ever found! The bitumen would have acted like both a filling and an antiseptic, protecting the tooth from further infection. Previously, the earliest known example of a tooth filling was found in a 6,500 thousand year old lower jaw that had a tooth where beeswax had been filled into a canine. Teeth are prone to decay and infection, and even the earliest humans were trying to find ways to combat pain and prevent further tooth loss. Dental practices and technology have come a long way since beeswax and bitumen, and we will explore some of the history of dentistry and the amazing new technology available today.

Ancient Dentistry

If you were in ancient Sumeria around 5000 B.C., you would be assured that the cause of your dental maladies were “tooth worms”, and this idea would persist until the 18th century! In 2600 B.C. Hesy-Re was the first person identified as a dental practitioner, and his tomb inscription reads: “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.” We don’t know exactly how Hesy-Re was dealing with those teeth, but an Egyptian text a thousand years later talked about the diseases of the teeth and remedies for toothaches. Dentistry would have continued to be improved upon, given that tooth disease would be present in any civilization. In ancient Greece in 500-300 B.C., Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about teeth erupting, tooth decay, extracting teeth with forceps, and using wires to stabilize teeth and jawbones. Celsus also wrote of oral hygiene and tooth remedies, and by the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. the Etruscans were using gold crowns and bridgework to provide dental solutions. Remember that all of these procedures would have taken place with little to no anesthetic!

Dentistry Becoming a Profession

As the base of knowledge regarding teeth, decay, and dental solutions expanded, the roots of the dental profession as we know it today took hold. In 1210 a Guild of Barbers was established in France, and were eventually divided into two groups: surgeons, and barber-surgeons whose duties including shaving, bloodletting, and tooth extraction. These “lay barbers” were eventually banned from every surgical procedure except bleeding and extracting teeth. The spread of dental education continued with published works including the Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Disease and Infirmities of the Teeth in 1530, and Complete Works by the “father of surgery” Ambrose Pare in 1575. These both gave detailed information concerning oral hygiene, tooth extraction, drilling teeth, treatment of tooth decay, jaw fractures, and placement of gold fillings. Dentistry was becoming more advanced, and more standardized.

Dentistry in the 18th and 19th Centuries

With advancements in knowledge and training came increased innovation in dental solutions. In 1746, Claude Mouton gave a description of an early dental implant, a gold crown permanently anchored with a post in a root canal. He also pushed for a white enamel to be used as a more aesthetically pleasing alternative to gold, and this shows that cosmetic dentistry was gaining traction as well. Porcelain is used for teeth, dental drills are invented (the first one utilized a treadle spinning wheel) and even a dedicated dental chair is invented to adjust the patient’s head and hold tools. In the 19th century, amalgam fillings are introduced, and the American Journal of Dental Science, the American Society of Dental Surgeons, and the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the first dental school, are all established and legitimize and standardize the dental profession. This century also sees (finally!) the introduction of anesthesia in the form of ether. While anesthetic will take awhile to be perfected, these early beginnings pinpointed a major problem with dentistry: the pain of the patient.

20th Century Dentistry

In the 20th century, dentistry evolved even further with advances in training, practices, and anesthetic. Novocain is introduced, and the comfort of the patient became more important. The first half of the century still was a far cry from the dentistry of today (ask your grandparents!), but advances were being made not only in the dental experience, but also in the cosmetic look of the teeth. Composite resin fillings were introduced, and dental implants were being perfected. New materials that were tooth-colored were championed, and no longer did missing teeth need to be filled with unsightly, metal fillings. New tools and dental practices made treatment time shorter and more comfortable, and going to the dentist became less feared than in the past.

Dentistry Today

So what can you expect at the dentist today? For one thing, you can expect your dentist to work hard to make your experience pain-free and comfortable. At Love to Smile, we use the latest dental technology to make sure that you have a great dental visit.

3D X-Ray Technology

At Love to Smile, we use the Orthophos XG3D cone beam system to take clear, detailed, three-dimensional images that we use to get a full picture of your dental health. These images can make complex dental procedures like dental implants more predictable and successful, and give the patient more information prior to procedures. Using this technology, the entire scan only takes 14 seconds to complete, and lets off less radiation than traditional dental x-rays. These images can be easily manipulated on a computer, giving much more information that traditional dental films. This process is much more comfortable for the patient, as opposed to older methods where you needed to hold still for long periods of time with uncomfortable implements in your mouth.

ITero Digital Intraoral Scanner

This digital scanner can make a 3D model of your teeth, and is used in preparation for building crowns, bridges, veneers, and other restorative devices. This device scans painlessly with a slim scanning wand passed over the teeth, and eliminates needing to use bulky, bad-tasting, gag-inducing trays and compounds to take impressions of the teeth.

CEREC

Gone are the days of long, complicated processes to receive dental restorations. CEREC uses computer assisted design and manufacturing to create dental restorations such as crowns and veneers, and these can be done in one day! This results in less time and cost for the patient, and no need for temporary restorations. CEREC restores the natural beauty of the teeth, without the wait typically associated with dental restorations.

So there is no need to fear the dentist’s chair! With all of the new advances in scanning and restorations you can solve your dental problems and get the smile you have always wanted! Be glad that dentistry has come so far, and take advantage of the dental technology at Love to Smile in Overland Park and Peculiar!