Who Is the Father of Modern Dentistry?

Dental treatments and technology have come a very long way since ancient cultures used chewing sticks and tooth powders that contained ingredients like crushed-up bones, shells, and ash! But how did dentistry become a professional discipline in the United States at all?

A Brief History of People Who Influenced Dentistry

Dr. Pierre Fauchard: The Surgical Dentist

In the Middle Ages, barbers performed tooth extractions because preventive dental care and dentists didn’t exist. In 1728, a French physician named Pierre Fauchard (credited as “The Father of Modern Dentistry”) published a groundbreaking book called Le Chirurgien Dentiste, or The Surgical Dentist. It was the very first book that put forth a comprehensive system for the treatment of oral health issues, along with ways to maintain proper gum health, and perform oral surgery, orthodontics, and tooth replacement. This book eventually prompted people to consider how important oral health was to their overall health. New instruments like dental floss appeared on the market less than a century after Fauchard’s book was published.

A stack of 5 old books with brown pages and red covers against a white brick wall

Dr. John M. Harris: Dental Education

A medical doctor named Dr. Harris from Cincinnati, Ohio was influential in the evolution of dentistry via dental education. In 1827, he not only offered preparatory classes for those seeking to become medical doctors, but he also developed courses for those who wanted to specifically study dentistry. In February of 1828, Dr. Harris opened the world’s first dental school in Bainbridge, Ohio. This school is known as “The Cradle of Dentistry”, since two of his nine students went on to form the first two dental colleges in the United States. Today, the school is appropriately a dental museum.

Drawing of a royal blue toothbrush and aqua blue toothpaste tube in an orange cup against a yellow background

Dr. Thaddeus P. Hyatt: Preventive Dental Care

During the 20th century, preventive dentistry became more common and widely accepted as an effective mode of preventing dental disease. In 1903, Dr. Hyatt, “The Father of Preventative Dentistry”, advised dentists to teach their patients how to prevent tooth decay through at-home oral hygiene. Irene Newman, the first licensed dental hygienist, began work in 1917. And in 1938, the modern toothbrush was introduced in the United States, making it easier than ever for people to practice good oral hygiene habits at home.

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