History of the Dentist: 1720, 1820, 1920, 2020

Are you the type of person who gets excited or nervous before your dentist appointment with Dr. Brunacini, Dr. Karagiorgos, or Dr. Smith? Although it’s completely normal to have a few butterflies before you sit in the exam chair, you should be excited that you’re not sitting in a dental office in 1720–you might not have had any teeth when you left! At FDA, we are committed to patient comfort no matter the century. But what was it like being a patient of dentists 100, 200, or even 300 years ago? Let’s take a look! 

1720: Fake Smiles 

The 1700’s saw the first professionals trained in the treatment of teeth. However, a combination of disease, high-sugar diets, and very few fresh fruits and vegetables meant most people suffered from slow and painful tooth decay and loss. Because of this, 18th century dentists were focused on tooth extraction and not tooth preservation.

The tools used for extracting teeth were not elegant–and anesthetic technology had yet to be invented. Forceps, pliers, hot coals, and string were all common tools of the dental trade. In fact, specially-trained dentists only serviced the wealthy; middle and lower class folks frequently visited their local blacksmith if they had a toothache. 

With tooth loss running rampant, false teeth were extremely common. Ivory and porcelain were popular materials for making a set of false teeth– but nothing could beat genuine human teeth! It was common practice to pay people (especially children and teenagers) for their teeth. Although it seems incredible now, during a time when poverty was common, a penny for an incisor or molar was a tempting offer for many people!

1820: Comfortably Numb

Three important scientific discoveries during the 19th century propelled dentistry towards the science and practice of preserving smiles. 

American dentist Horace Wells first applied the anesthetic effects of nitrous oxide in a tooth extraction, leading to more comfortable dental visits and pioneering other anesthetic techniques. 

A few states away, Charles Goodyear was experimenting with techniques to make a flexible rubber, which he called Vulcanite. Dentist Thomas W. Evans took Goodyear’s vulcanite and created a rubberized denture–a much more cost effective option compared to ivory or porcelain. Dr. Evans eventually created a set of vulcanite dentures for Mr. Goodyear. 

Last but certainly not least, 19th century microbiologist Dr. Willoughby D. Miller was the first dentist to suggest that bacteria in the mouth was to blame for tooth decay. So began the never-ending fight against cavities! 

1920: Setting the Standard

The 19th century laid the groundwork for the modern practice of dentistry, and the 20th century continued to build on that foundation.

The use of x-ray technology on teeth affirmed dentistry’s commitment to tooth preservation. Dr. Frederick McKay devoted his dental practice to the study of fluoride’s effects on enamel health–ultimately leading to the fluoridation of city water across the United States. 

Dental schools took definite shape in the 20th century; the American Dental Association started the practice of formal licensure for clinics and practice; modern dental tools such as tarter scrapers and removers were invented and standardized across the practice. 

2020: Helping Hands

As you can see, the 21st century is the best place to be when it comes to dental care. The largest shift from the 20th to the 21st century was the introduction of dental hygienists as integral members of the dental practice. 

We are grateful for our incredible team of hygienists, they help us provide you with the best oral health care.  We’re also happy that all of our dentists are kind, talented, and trained medical professionals–not blacksmiths with pliers and a spare moment! We pride ourselves on providing not just great dentistry, but compassionate and stress-free oral health care!

We look forward to seeing you at your next 21st century dentist appointment. Be sure to read through our COVID Protocol page to make sure that you’re prepared for your appointment!

Don’t Be Scared! Dealing with Dental Phobia

Here at Falmouth Dental Arts, we always love seeing our patients! However, we know that not everyone loves going to the dentist. This anxiety can range  from mild apprehension to full blown Dental Phobia–a fear so intense that it causes people to avoid dental care altogether. 

Infrequent dental visits have a negative impact on your overall health, which is why we are committed to helping everyone receive the oral health care that meets their needs.  Our team of experienced and compassionate dental professionals strive to help our patients feel comfortable and at ease from the moment they step in our doors. Still feeling a little nervous? Here are some relaxation techniques that we’ve found helpful for many patients:

1.Talk it Out! If you suffer from anxiety or fear caused by the thought of your dentist visit, please let us know!  Getting to know you and your oral health needs is a central part of Falmouth Dental Arts’ approach to oral health care. We care about the well-being of our patients and find that talking about their fears and going through procedures step-by-step can be very comforting.  We are always happy to take the extra time to answer your questions and listen to you!  

2. Music, Podcasts, & Books-on-Tape — Oh My! Bring your headphones to your next dental appointment, or ask to borrow a pair from us!  Many people find it helpful to distract themselves during the dental procedure by immersing themselves in their favorite podcast or tunes.  Find something that puts you at ease and watch the time fly by…you’ll be done with your appointment before you know it!

3. Breathe In…Breathe Out. Try to focus on your breath during your next appointment. Slow, conscious breathing techniques give your body more oxygen and help your nervous system calm down.  This technique is central to yoga and meditation practices and can be extremely helpful for reducing anxiety. It’s something you can start to do at home, in the waiting room, as well as throughout your appointment.

4. Laugh it Off! For patients with more severe dental phobia who need additional support being comfortable during a dental procedure, we offer nitrous oxide (Laughing Gas). When you arrive in our office, you’ll be escorted to your dental chair, given a small mask to fit over your nose, and will breathe in a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. With nitrous oxide, you maintain consciousness so you can still communicate with Dr. Brunacini and Dr. Karagiorgos throughout the procedure. You’ll just be a little more comfortable and much more relaxed!

Give us a call at 207-791-5900 today to learn more about the use of nitrous oxide and the other techniques we recommend for a relaxing dental visit. Let us provide you with the best oral health care that keeps your teeth healthy and your mind calm!