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History of Dentistry – Fountain Valley, CA By Andrew Mortensen, DDS on January 30, 2018

Although the practice may seem modern, dentistry has actually been around for centuries. While general and restorative treatments have certainly improved since then, understanding the history of dentistry can help you appreciate modern medical practice and how far it has come. Dr. Andrew Mortensen is proud to provide his patients the latest dental technologies and treatments in restorative dentistry at his Fountain Valley, CA, practice.

image of single tooth

Dating as far back as 7,000 B.C., dentistry is one of the oldest medical professions. Long before electricity, running water, anesthesia, and x-rays, early physicians helped people with their oral health. Learn how dentistry has evolved through the years and how those early primitive years impacted modern dental practices.

Ancient Dentistry Practices

Personal hygiene may not have been a normal daily practice thousands of years ago, but there is evidence that these civilizations did make tooth care and cleanliness a priority. While the exact dental practices used at that time are not mentioned, early ancient texts revealed that dental health was of interest:

  • Human remains from 7,000 B.C. show holes were made in teeth to rid tooth decay
  • Sumerian texts from 5000 B.C record “tooth worms” as the reason for decay
  • Egyptian texts from 2700 B.C. reference a “Chief of the Toothers” as one of the early dental practitioners who cared for teeth
  • Greek writings from 1300 B.C. mention the extraction of unhealthy teeth

Oral Discoveries Made by the Greeks

By 300 B.C., different techniques were devised to help treat tooth maladies. Methods considered radical at the time, such as extractions, tooth gel, and tissue cauterization were made by Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine” to help treat tooth pain.

Notes penned by the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle describe tooth development, tooth decay, and gum infection. He also implemented treatment methods, such as forceps to remove teeth and wires to secure loose teeth.

Greek physician Claudius Galen discovered that teeth were made of bone containing nerves, while Diocles of Carystus was the first to recommend tips for oral hygiene.

Dental Practices of the Middle Ages

At this time, monks were considered well educated and knowledgeable on medical and dental practices. While preventative care was still not a focus, there is evidence that decay and disease were treated. Monks regularly performed bloodletting, surgeries, and tooth extractions with the help of barbers, due to their expertise in knives and shaving blades. Years later, when monks were banned from performing these procedures by the Church, barbers picked up the duties. Much like the modern dental forceps of today, barbers used tools known as dental pelicans and keys to remove teeth.

First Books on Dentistry

By the 1500s, dentistry began to expand in the medical community with the help of the written word. In 1530, the first book on dentistry, The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth was published. In 1575, a book on surgical dentistry practices was published by French surgeon Ambrose Pare.

In 1685, the first English dental textbook, The Operator for the Teeth, was published by Charles Allen. It served as a guide for how to help patients beyond tooth extractions. It also included relaxation techniques to use before treatment and homemade tinctures to bleach teeth.

The Beginning of Modern Dentistry

Many of the dental practices still performed today can be traced back to the 1700s when the “Father of Dentistry,” Pierre Fauchard, introduced dental concepts in his book The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth.

His text revealed that it was acids and sugar, rather than “tooth worms,” that caused decay. His text introduced the idea of repairing teeth with dental fillings and even offered techniques for cleaning teeth. He also helped establish the modern dentistry practices of dental prostheses, braces, and implants.

Modern dentistry continues to expand its technologies and tools. Dr. Andrew Mortensen stays up to date with the latest techniques and modern materials in order to provide his patients with the best possible care.

Contact Us Today

To learn more about the general, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry treatments we offer, please contact our office today to schedule your consultation.

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Andrew G. Mortensen, DDS

Andrew G. Mortensen, DDS

Dr. Andrew Mortensen is a top-rated dentist with training from the world-famous Las Vegas Institute. His exceptional care and expertise have earned him hundreds of 5-star reviews, and he is an accredited member of the:

  • American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
  • American Dental Association
  • California Dental Association
  • Orange County Dental Society 

Ready to schedule a consultation at our Huntington Beach dental practice? Request an appointment online or call us at (714) 964-4183.

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"I am proud to have served patients in our community. Through continuing education and state-of-the-art equipment, we are able to offer you and your family the high level of care you're looking for." Andrew G. Mortensen, D.D.S.

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