Dentistry is one of the oldest medical professions, dating back to 7000 BC. Remains from the Indus Valley civilization reveal holes in teeth created intentionally by ancient drills. While we’re not sure if these holes were old fillings, we know that oral health was of great importance and concern. Hesy-Re is said to be the first Egyptian dental practitioner, and on his tomb are the words, “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.”

Several thousand years later, the first things resembling a toothbrush came into existence with chew sticks to clean plaque off the surface of teeth. In 1498, individuals began using handles made of bamboo or bone and coarse bristles of hog hair to create what more closely resembles a modern-day toothbrush. It wasn’t until 1938 that the Dupont de Nemours introduced nylon bristles, beginning mass production during the industrial revolution and changing home tooth care forever.

In the last century, dentistry continues to evolve, integrating sleep and airway as we better understand our oral anatomy, the interaction of our dental structure with our respiratory system, and how to practice the highest level of dental hygiene. Interested in understanding the evolution of dentistry? Whether you are old or new, here’s so much to learn in the ever-changing field of dentistry.

The History of Dentistry

You may have heard of the famous philosophers Hippocrates and Aristotle. Beyond their ponderings about life and human interaction, the pair actually wrote about dentistry. More specifically, they shared information about their methods of treating tooth decay, the process in which adult teeth grow in, tooth extraction, and how to stabilize the jaw with wire pieces.

Centuries later, in 1530, the first book about dentistry was published: The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth. Written by German author Artzney Buchlein, the book standardized oral procedures such as extraction and practicing proper oral hygiene.

By 1723, dentistry was a much more defined and respected profession. Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon credited as the father of modern dentistry, published his book, The Surgeon Dentist. This book introduced dental fillings, dental prostheses, and how acids from sugar cause tooth decay. In 1828, John M. Harris opened the United States’ first dental school, and in 1840, the first dental college, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, opened its doors.

In 1859, 26 dentists gathered in Niagara Falls, New York, to launch the foundation of the American Dental Association (ADA), a professional nationwide association dedicated to promoting high standards of dental treatment and scientific research. The field of dentistry was changing, and quickly. In 1873, Colgate began mass-producing its first toothpaste, followed promptly by the toothbrush. Finally, modern-day brushing habits came to America after World War II when soldiers stationed in Europe observed the standard abroad and brought their findings back home.

Changes in the Last Decade

Dentistry continues to evolve rapidly, and today, thanks to modern advancements in technology and a better understanding of oral anatomy, dentists are much better equipped to provide proper preventative care. One improvement is in the way dentists find cavities. Many dentists have retired their poking stick and swapped it out for a diode laser, detecting weakness or a hole in a tooth. AI technology can also help dentists diagnose quicker and treat dental conditions better. It can detect dental decay, oral cancer, and periodontal disease using diagnostic imaging and algorithms. This technology sets the foundation for quicker, better treatments, which lead to happier and healthier patients.

Another significant change in medical technology is in the computer-assisted design (CAD) and computer-assisted manufacture (CAM) programs, which dentists use for bridges and crowns. This allows for quicker and simpler in-office procedures done on the same day. Procedures can also be done without needles thanks to electronic anesthesia, a therapy that uses a low-voltage electrical current for dental pain relief.

3D imaging is also becoming quite common in dental offices. Custom printing means unique solutions for each individual, and digital printing increases in-office efficiency and quality while lowering costs for patients. 3D printers can produce orthodontic models, crowns, aligners, retainers, dentures, and more.

We’ve all been in a situation where we need to schedule an appointment with a medical provider only to find out that they are booked out several months in advance. Teledentistry solves this problem by providing equal access to dental healthcare via technology. It’s accessible and cheaper, and it connects the patient with the professional quickly and simply.

We have seen a drastic rise in teledentistry during the COVID-19 pandemic. “During the COVID-19 outbreak, many states changed the scope of practice guidelines to allow the reimbursement and utilization of teledentistry, seeing it as an effective way to increase the practice hours and availability while limiting the amount of people in the office at any one time,” says Dr. Nathan Suter, a teledentistry consultant.

In the last century, dentistry continues to evolve, integrating sleep and airway as we better understand our oral anatomy, the interaction of our dental structure with our respiratory system, and how to practice the highest level of dental hygiene. Whether you are old or new, here’s so much to learn in the ever-changing field of dentistry.