A Fascinating History of Cosmetic Dentistry
The number of advances in cosmetic dentistry over time have been nothing short of breathtaking—especially over the past few years. But did you know that people have been receiving cosmetic treatments for their tooth issues since around 3000 BC? It’s true.
There were no high-speed drills nor rudimentary metal tools back in the day “practitioners” used sticks to clean the teeth of people in an era when life expectancies for both men and women was only about 30!
Archaeologists believe was the first bristle toothbrush was made from animal hair in the 1400s though restoration and other cosmetic procedures can be traced back to around 700 BC, when Etruscans crafted dentures of ivory and bone and even took teeth from cadavers and animals, “transplanting” them to people using some very weird methods.
Fortunately, innovators, buoyed by medical professionals and scientists dedicated to improving all aspects of general health over time, conclude that healthy teeth do more than just make one look good. Excellent dental health can help people feel better and live longer and cosmetic dentistry, like weight loss, can transform one’s self-esteem.
Of time and teeth
The practice of tooth replacement using ivory, bone or actual teeth was carried on in myriad societies for centuries, even driving commercial enterprises in which people sold their teeth to make extra money. This donation method wasn’t without risk, since these biological materials triggered all manner of health issues.
Etruscans weren’t the only society practicing restorative dentistry. Ancient Egyptians developed a rather barbaric procedure in which they literally hammered seashells into the gums of people whose teeth had fallen out to improve their looks. On a far less disturbing note, Etruscans began making gold crowns and bridges back in 200 AD. Advances? The answer is yes. But cosmetic dentistry was about to take a strange turn.
Need cosmetic dentistry? Head for your local barber
Despite primitive methods and techniques used by evolving societies to fix tooth problems, some of these crazy methods and materials stuck around until the 1800s, though establishing formal dental professions began as early as the 1100s when, for reasons lost in time, it became custom to go to a barber to have dental work done.
A guild was formed by barbers who were becoming as expert at dental care as they were at cutting hair, though by the 1400s, the medical profession had fully absorbed dental surgery as a specialty. This relegated barbers to a variety of hygiene-related services that included “filling” teeth with acid-based agents because they were unaware that acid destroyed and corroded tooth enamel from the moment it was applied.
Cosmetic dentistry comes into its own
Though the practice of carving dentures from minerals and using human teeth as implants remained entrenched, the 1800s became a watershed for dentistry as the first metal teeth, designed to be placed into tooth sockets, enjoyed initial success. But extreme pain and rejection soon relegated this method of tooth replacement to history.
Prosthetic surgery made inroads when the first porcelain dentures were made around 1770. At the same time, the introduction of plaster casts helped practitioners create better-fitting teeth. While porcelain dentures became the most popular way for people to improve their looks, the profession was open to new ideas and materials. Leading the way were the first rubber-based false teeth crafted of a material called Vulcanite.
We’ve no evidence that these rubber teeth helped patients dig into steaks and apples, but this rubber material was certainly more comfortable and may have led to the creation of the porcelain jacket crown, pioneered in 1903 by Charles Land.
Cosmetic dentistry becomes a recognized specialty
While Europe experienced a Renaissance that forever changed arts and sciences and America enjoyed its own reformation in the form of the Industrial age, dentistry, and particularly cosmetic dentistry, was evolving at the speed of light by the middle of the 19th Century.
Requests for whitening and bleaching became so commonplace, even folks who might not have availed themselves of these services began to crave whiter teeth, especially as patients found they could use dedicated credit cards and practice-specific payment plans that allowed them to pay off services over time.
What other invention helped shepherd the popularity of cosmetic dentistry? Lasers. Once employed almost exclusively to treat gum disease, lasers came into their own by combining heat, light and bleaching agents to advance the whitening process. Further, composite fillings and dental bonding treatments using space age materials like acrylic resin produced other cosmetic dentistry milestones.
The age of the implant
These days, veneers and implants are state-of-the-art solutions designed for people of any age, thus no history of cosmetic dentistry would be complete without a shout-out to Alvin Struck.
Struck’s screw-in dental implant dawned on him in 1937 and it was quickly adopted by the medical community. It wasn’t until a Swedish doctor recommended screw-in implants to dental practitioners in 1981 that the profession realized the value of this product for people whose only recourse until then had been bridge work.
This pairing of implanted screws and crowns has become one of the most-often requested procedures of all time when folks find themselves missing teeth. In fact, it’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t heard of implants and the many benefits they offer.
Please learn more about the cosmetic dental procedures offered by Compass Dental®.