Oral health has a long history. According to the American Dental Association, records suggest the presence of oral health specialists in Egypt in approximately 2600 B.C. Between 500 B.C. and 300 B.C. in Greece, philosopher Aristotle and physician Hippocrates wrote about various aspects of oral health, including tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth extraction.
Other notable important dates in the history of oral health:
- In approximately 700 A.D., a Chinese medical text noted the use of a silver paste as an amalgam to maintain oral health.
- In 1723, Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon, published a book called The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth. The book includes many aspects of oral health that are considered the foundation of modern dentistry, including oral anatomy, oral surgery techniques, and the construction of dentures.
According to the American Dental Association, several items that make oral health care easier originated in the 1700s:
- 1746: Frenchman Claude Mouton recommended white enamel for gold tooth crowns, and describes a gold crown and post to embed in the root canal.
- 1790: The first known patent was granted for porcelain teeth as part of an oral health strategy.
- 1832: Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber, which is adapted for oral health use as a foundation for false teeth.
- 1844: Connecticut dentist Horace Wells began using nitrous oxide as an anesthesia in oral health care.
Dental chairs play a role in oral health by giving the dentist better access to the teeth and by making the patient more comfortable. In 1790, American dentist Josiah Flagg invented a dental chair that featured an extended armrest to hold oral health instruments, and an adjustable headrest to make patients more comfortable. According to the American Dental Association, James Snell invented the first reclining dental chair in 1832, and a fully reclining dental chair appeared in 1958.
According to the American Dental Association, tube toothpaste (vs. tooth powder) became widely available in the 1880s, which allowed more people to improve their oral health cheaply and easily. Fluoride toothpastes were first marketed in the 1950s. The first toothbrush with synthetic (nylon) bristles was marketed in 1938, and an electric toothbrush (developed in Switzerland) first appeared in the United States in 1960.
Oral health includes not only the prevention of tooth decay and gum disease, but also the aesthetic improvement of the teeth. At-home teeth whitening is a relatively recent advance in the history of oral health. According to the American Dental Association, commercial teeth-whitening products for home use were first marketed in the United States in 1989. The 1990s also saw the introduction of tooth-colored fillings and crowns and an increase in the popularity of cosmetic dentistry.
Consumers can choose from a variety of oral health products that are specific to their needs such as products for stubborn tooth stains or sensitive teeth. These oral health technologies and products will continue to improve.
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