The Fascinating History of Dentistry

Category: Dr. Advocate's Insights

Dr Advocate Avatar IconBy: Dr. Advocate
Updated: September 4, 2022

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Dental roots run deep in the mouth; they also run deep historically, dating back thousands of years. This extended period has allowed innovation and technological advances to improve the dental profession radically. Let’s take a closer look at the dental profession’s history, how it impacts our oral health, and what it means for the future of dental care.

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Ancient origins

  • The first descriptions related to dentistry and tooth decay occurred in 5000 B.C.
  • Hesy-Re, an Egyptian, is identified as the first dental practitioner in 2600 B.C.
  • Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dentistry, specifically tooth decay, in 500 B.C.
  • Celsus, a Roman, writes about stabilizing teeth and managing pain in 100 B.C.
  • In 200 A.D., The Etruscans practiced dental prosthetics using gold crowns.

Beginnings of the profession

  • A medical text in China mentions “silver paste,” a type of amalgam, in 700 A.D.
  • The French Guild of Barbers performed routine hygienic services in 1210.
  • In 1400, royal decrees in France prohibited lay barbers from practicing.
  • The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth (by Artney Buchlein) was published in Germany in 1530.
  • In 1575, France Ambrose Pare published practical information and instructions about dentistry, such as tooth extractions and treating tooth decay and jaw fractures.

Development of the profession

  • In 1723, Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon, was credited as the Father of Modern Dentistry.
  • In 1746, Claude Mouton described a gold crown and post to be retained in the root canal. He also recommends white enameling for gold crowns for aesthetics.
  • In 1760, John Baker, the earliest medically-trained dentist to practice in America, immigrated from England and set up practice.
  • In 1770, Paul Revere placed advertisements in a Boston newspaper offering his services as a dentist.
  • John Greenwood constructed the first known dental foot engine drill in 1790.

Advances in the profession

  • In 1801, Richard C. Skinner published the first dental book in America.
  • In 1840, the first dental college (Baltimore College of Dental Surgery) opened.
  • The American Dental Association was formed in 1859.
  • In 1869, the first African American earned a dental degree.
  • By 1873, Colgate had mass produced the first toothpaste, and mass produced toothbrushes came a few years later.

Innovations in the profession

  • In 1905, Alfred Einhorn, a German chemist, formulated the local anesthetic Novocaine.
  • In 1930, The American Board of Orthodontics, the world’s first dental specialty board, was founded.
  • The nylon toothbrush, made from synthetic bristles, appeared on the market in 1938.
  • In 1950, the first fluoride toothpaste was sold.
  • In 1989, the first commercial home tooth bleaching product was sold.

Future of the profession

  • Artificial Intelligence is now being used to evaluate x-ray images and dental pictures to scan for tooth decay and other abnormalities.
  • Cavity remineralization (healing) products are becoming more prevalent and can heal decay without drilling.
  • Lasers are being used to remove tooth decay to avoid drilling.
  • Same-day crowns are created using a CAD/CAM in-office unit.
  • Implant placement can be computer-assisted using multiple cameras and sensors.

Common questions

1. How many dentists are in the U.S.?

As of 2021, there are 201,927 professionally active dentists in the U.S. There are 60.84 dentists per 100k U.S. population.

2. How many dentists are female?

As of 2021, among the 201,927 dentists working in dentistry, 35.9% are female.

3. What is the age breakdown of dentists in the U.S.?

As of 2021, 17.6% are under age 35, 24.6% are ages 35-44. 21.8% are ages 45-54, 20.2% are ages 55-64, and 15.9% are age 65 and older.

4. What is the ethnic breakdown of dentists in the U.S.?

In 2021, 70.2% of U.S. dentists were White, 18.0% were Asian, 5.9% were Hispanic, 3.8% were Black, and 2.2% were from other races.

5. What is the average age of retirement among dentists?

In 2021, the average age of retirement among U.S. dentists was 68.2.


Final thoughts

This history of dentistry shows how far dentistry has come as a profession and how it has developed. Today, we live in a technologically advanced time spilling over into the dental work. These advances minimize surgical errors, improve success rates and decrease postoperative pain. The following 50 years will advance the dental community and improve oral health.


The more you know, the more healthy habits you can develop – saving you and your family from avoidable and potentially expensive dental procedures. Talk to your dental professional for more suggestions on improving oral health and check back for more blog posts and relevant information. Please share this site and let us know what else you’d like to know!




Dr Advocate Avatar IconAbout the Author

Dr. Advocate is an actual board-certified dentist with clinical practice experience and a mission to provide accurate dental patient education. He believes everyone should access easy-to-read dental resources presented in layman’s terms with relevant, up-to-date dental research and insight to improve their oral health.