The following blog post has been written by Curatorial Assistant Varsha Jayaraman
Dentistry is a branch of medicine specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the teeth and gums, as well as ailments of the oral cavity and maxillofacial area. It plays a vital role in health care.
The history of dentistry may be traced back to 7000 BCE in the Indus Valley Civilization (now Pakistan). Researchers speculate that bead craftsmen used a drill made of flint heads to remove tooth enamel and rotting dental tissue. Evidence suggests that this procedure was surprisingly effective.
The first professional European “dentists” were known as barber-surgeons. Guilds of barber-surgeons were prominent in Europe beginning in the thirteenth century. They were generally responsible for bleeding, cupping, leeching, giving enemas and extracting teeth. Only in the early eighteenth century did the exclusive profession of dentistry emerge.
Pierre Fauchard of France (1678-1761) is known today as the “Father of Modern Dentistry.” When he was 15 years old, he began his surgical training in the French navy. He became particularly interested in diseases of the mouth as he was exposed to various illnesses of sailors while at sea. Prominent on his voyages was scurvy, the “seaman’s disease”, which occurs due to a deficiency of vitamin C. Scurvy is characterized by the formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums and bleeding from the mucous membranes.
After leaving the French Navy, Fauchard began working as a professional dentist in France. His practice flourished and he earned a promising reputation as a dental surgeon, attracting patients from all over the country. Fauchard composed his own treatise on the foundations of dentistry, Le chirurgien dentiste ou traité des dents (The Surgeon-Dentist, or Treatise on the Teeth), in 1728. In it, Fauchard described the foundations of oral anatomy and physiology. (more…)
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