Dentistry: From the Medieval Barber to our Cosmetic Dentistry

By: Patricia Woloch

During medieval times
In the Middle Ages, local barbers practiced the basics of dentistry as a side benefit for their hair-cutting clients. It was an added bonus often only available to wealthy clients. Theycould go in for a shave and a haircut and get a tooth pulled, all in one sitting. There was no anesthetic in those days, other than alcohol. But once the extraction was done, toothache was gone, a great blessing. Medieval people also used tooth extraction to treat other health problems, and we know now that gum disease can indeed spread throughout the body and cause health problems which don't at first seem at all related to dental issues.

In a sense, it was quite understandable that barbers would perform dental duties, since they were the ones always equipped with sharp knives and razors.

Eventually the barbers divided themselves into two groups. One group was educated and trained in the surgical techniques necessary to perform more complex operations. The other group specialized in more routine practices of oral hygiene, tooth extraction and bleeding.

Dental Implements
Tooth extraction instruments were developed through the 17th and 18th centuries and were known as dental keys. They looked like door keys, except that the end piece was a pincer, or claw, which was tightened over the tooth. Then the key was twisted to loosen the tooth for extraction. Improvements were made to reduce damage to neighboring teeth, jaw fractures, and gum injuries. In the 19th century, dental keys were replaced with modern forceps. By then too, novocaine was available, and a variety of other anesthetics, including cocaine.

Emergence of Modern Dentistry
The man dubbed "Father of Modern Dentistry is a 17th century French doctor called Pierre Fauchard. He developed artificial teeth and dental fillings, and made the connection between sugar and tooth decay.

The first dental school in the world began in Baltimore, MD in 1840, and the first dental school connected with a university began in 1867 - the Harvard Dental School. In Britain, dentistry was created as a separate profession in 1878, with laws which restricted the terms dentist and dental surgeon to trained and registered practitioners. In 1880, the British Dental Association was formed and did major work in prosecuting illegal "dentists".

General Dentistry
By the 20th century, general dentistry was an accepted profession in its own right, so that a dentist must graduate from a dental school and earn a licence to practice. There are many professional organizations which dentists join to stay in touch with new ideas and technologies, and in touch with their peers. These organizations, such as the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) support the profession by offering further training, funding research, and enforcing standards for their members.

Today's Cosmetic Dentistry
Cosmetic dentistry is not typically taught in standard dental schools. A dentist must go on to graduate school to learn the art and science of dental beauty and how it relates to dental health.

What is the very first feature you notice about another person's face? Often it will be their smile. This outstanding feature, whether for its good or bad qualities, is often the first thing to become etched in the mind, defining that other person.

For this reason, many people try to make their smiles the best they can be and keep their mouths and teeth as healthy as possible. Regular visits to the dentist twice a year are a necessary fact of life in order to maintain a healthy smile.

But today's cosmetic dentists can offer you much more in the way of improving your smile. They can remove stains, replace, repair, reposition, and reshape teeth, and even staighten crooked or crowded teeth without using braces. Here are some of the other procedures available through today's cosmetic dentistry.

?Tooth Shaping - Tooth enamel is removed in tiny amounts to improve appearance.
?Porcelain Veneers - custom-made shells are placed over the front of existing teeth to reshape them, hide stains, or give them a straighter look.
?Dental Bonding - Tooth-colored material is applied to improve the appearance of teeth that have spaces between them, are broken, chipped or cracked, or have stains that won't come off in a tooth whitening procedure.
?Teeth Whitening - A professional-strength whitening agent brightens teeth and removes stains caused by factors such as age, smoking, coffee or black tea.

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