The Evolution Of Your Dentist
Then and Now
Dentists are healthcare professionals who specialize in the art and science of taking care of the teeth, the gums, and other structures of the oral cavity. In the United States, a dentist is also referred to as a dental surgeon in reference to the often invasive procedures associated with dentistry. In general, a dentist diagnoses, prevents, and treats diseases as well as pathological conditions of the mouth or oral cavity. The dental team is composed of other assistive and support personnel who function in a variety of roles. These can include dental technicians, dental hygienists, and dental assistants. The St. Lucie Center For Cosmetic Dentistry provides Cosmetic, Restorative, and General Dentistry services… we’re a one-stop-shop for all of your needs!
Dentistry in Medieval Times
Historical records point to China and France as having originated some of the techniques now employed in modern dentistry. They were not dentists, however. The very first persons to perform what resembled dental procedures were barbers. They were classified either as a guild or as lay members. Members of the Guild of Barbers can be likened to the modern-day dentist as they are often well-educated and more qualified to perform more complex dental procedures compared to lay barbers. It can thus be said that the dental support team is the modern-day equivalent of medieval lay barbers in that they provide only routine dental hygiene measures as well as rudimentary dental procedures like tooth extraction as well as shaving. In instances where the lay barber has achieved sufficient training, a member of the Guild of Barbers may allow the former to perform simple dental surgical procedures. However, by the 1400, lay barbers were already barred from performing any kind of surgery. This was initiated by France as a result of complaints coming from botched operations.
From 1530 to 1575, several French and German publications were devoted to the practice of dentistry with Ambrose Pare, better known as the Father of Surgery, publishing his take on the proper treatment and maintenance of the teeth. Pare was a well-respected French barber surgeon for the French monarchy and is largely credited for having elevated the professional standing of barber surgeons.
The Development Of The Modern Dental Practice
By early 18th century, recognized Father of Modern Dentistry, Pierre Fauchard, published what has come to be regarded as the first scientific description of the practice of dentistry. The publication focused on dental practices and techniques that revolutionized the way individuals were being taught in the practice of dentistry and included oral anatomy and physiology, mechanisms of oral pathologies, operative methods for the restoration of teeth and removal of decay, management of periodontal diseases, orthodontics, tooth transplantation, and missing teeth replacement.
Many of these trained dentists later on migrated to America in order to practice their new-found profession. By the middle of the 18th century, America already had its own thriving native-born dentists. The very first known application of dentistry was in forensic sciences. Through the years, as more and more people got interested in the practice of dentistry, greater knowledge led to the development of newer technologies and innovations. By this time, a mechanism to rotate a drill was invented together with the dental chair to provide optimum positioning of the patient while undergoing dental examination.
The first ever dental school in the world was started by Dr. John M. Harris in Bainbridge, Ohio in 1828 helping to establish dentistry as a profession, offering a degree in Doctor of Dental Surgery to successful individuals. However, the very first dental college in the world was the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in Maryland in 1840. The professionalization of dentistry required regulation and as such the First Dental Practice Act was passed. The Law required all dentists to pass the medical board examination by individual states as a prerequisite to practicing dentistry in that given state. However, issues in enforcement meant that some dentists were not appropriately certified.
Newer dental techniques were being introduced by the middle of the 19th century and included the use of esters as anesthetic agents as well as the application of gold foil as dental fillings for cavities. By 1859, 26 dentists formed the core of what is now the American Dental Association and 8 years after, the very first university-associated learning institution for dentistry was established – the Harvard Dental School.
Other notable developments in dentistry around this time included the invention of a tube-based toothpaste in the 1880s, the first dental laboratory in 1997, and the discovery of dental x-ray by Wilhelm Rontgen, a German physicist, in 1895. Dental laboratories were initially designed to design, create, and produce dental crowns and dentures that are highly custom-made for individual patients. Additionally, by this time, new dental regulatory boards were established in an effort to ensure and maintain the highest quality of standards for dental professionals. One such example is the National Association of Dental Examiners.
By the 20th century, porcelain crowns were invented in 1903, the local anesthetic agent Novocain was discovered in 1905, and precision cast fillings were invented in 1907. Nylon toothbrushes began seeing widespread usage in 1938 and water fluoridation became a standard in 1945. Improvements in the toothpaste came in the form of fluoridation in 1950 while dental tools made a dramatic improvement in efficiency because of the use of compressed air in 1957. Lasers and electric toothbrushes highlighted the innovations in dental and oral health care in 1960 while home kits for teeth whitening or bleaching were invented in 1989.
Taking dentistry is almost similar to taking medicine that requires an excellent foundation of basic and secondary education as well as relevant tertiary degree. In general, individuals aspiring to become dentists must have completed courses in general biology, physics, organic and inorganic or general chemistry, and statistics or calculus. Almost all dental learning institutions require a bachelor’s degree prior to acceptance into the dental program. A few schools do admit exceptionally talented college students often after 3 years of college coursework. A Dental Admissions Test must be taken and successfully passed by any aspiring dental student. In addition to the DAT, dental schools will also look into the applicant’s GPA, research, extracurricular activities, and recommendations from credible sources.
Completing the dental coursework does not automatically confer the degree of DDS or its equivalent, the Doctor of Dental Medicine or DMD. One needs to complete all required clinical competencies as well as the national licensure examination for dentists. Additionally, some states do require post-graduate residency in order to practice in specialty fields of dentistry. Furthermore, in an effort to help uphold the level of professionalism of dentists, everyone is required to actively participate in continuing professional education.
The following are the responsibilities or a licensed dentist.
• Teeth cleaning
• Restorative dentistry that can include crowns, bridges, and other dental restorative procedures
• Orthodontic treatments like the application of braces
• Prosthodontic applications such as dentures and crowns or dental bridges
• Endodontic treatment that can include root canal therapy
• Tooth extraction
• Comprehensive oral and dental examinations
• Dental and oral diagnosis
• Radiographic assessment
• Medication prescription which can include analgesics, antibiotics, sedative-hypnotics, local anesthetics, and fluoride formulations
However, in order to perform more advanced responsibilities, dentists must secure additional training and certification in order to qualify for the following services:
• The use of general anesthesia
• Maxillofacial and oral surgical procedures
• Dental implantation
There are many specializations for dental professionals. These are inherently related to the many responsibilities that go with the profession. As such dental specializations can come in the field of public health, orthodontics, periodontology, dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, and oral and maxillofacial pathology. Other dental specializations include prosthodontics, cosmetic dentistry, oral and maxillofacial radiology, endodontics, and oral and maxillofacial surgery. These dental specializations are considered board-eligible or registrable and as such deserve to be awarded the title as such but only upon successful completion of all the accreditation requirements for such specializations. This warrants the use of a Board-Certified label in the practice of dentistry.