What Is Dentistry? A Definition And A Bit Of Dental History

Dentistry is the study of conditions, disorders and diseases that occur in the oral cavity.  It is a branch of medicine that includes the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these conditions in the oral cavity and all related and adjacent tissues and structures.

Treatments for dental diseases have been recorded from primitive times and in include such things as incantations, chemical and vegetable plasters, and mouth rinses.  Medical doctors did not concern themselves too much with what goes on in the mouth.  Laymen treated dental ailments most of the time.

Until 1728 there is very little medical literature that dealt with dental disease and treatment.  In 1728, the first scientific basis for dentistry was published by “Pierre Fauchard”, and contained everything that was known about the art and science of dentistry.

Timeline of Dentistry:

  1. 5000 BC – A Sumerian text describes that “tooth worms” are the cause of decaying teeth.
  2. 2600 BC – At his death, an Egyptian scribe, Hesy-Re, (who was often referred to as the first “dentist”), had a tomb inscription that included the title “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians”. This might be the first reference of a person that practised as a dental practitioner.
  3. 1700-1550 BC – The “Ebers Papyrus”, an Egyptian text, mentions diseases of the teeth, and also a variety of remedies against toothache.
  4. 500-300 BC – Aristotle and Hippocrates wrote about treatments for decaying teeth, gum diseases, the extraction of teeth, and the stabilizing of teeth that are loose and also fractured jaws. They wrote about dentistry.
  5. 100 BC – An important compendium, written by a Roman medical writer, “Celsus”, included extensive information about oral hygiene and medicine, the stabilizing of loosened teeth, treatments for toothache, jaw fractures, as well as, teething pain.
  6. 166-201 AD – Using cold crowns, the Etruscans, practised dental prosthetics, which also included fixing bridgework.
Chinese American Dental Association

During the Middle Ages, in the year 700, the Chinese mentioned the use of a type of amalgam called “silver paste”.  In France, a “Guild of Barbers” was established who performed most teeth related procedures.  In Germany the first book that was written about only dentistry, “The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth”.  In France, the “Complete Works”, written by “Ambrose Pare”, was published.  It included practical information about all dentistry treatments.

The Dentistry Profession started to develop during the 18th Century and advanced in Science and Education during the 19th Century.  New Technologies and Techniques made the 20th Century full of new Innovations.