Dentistry through the 20th Century

Modern dentistry, like modern medicine in general, has come a long way in the past 115 years. Some procedures that we take for granted nowadays had not been thought of in the year 1900. Here’s a glimpse at how the world of dentistry changed in the 20th century.

There were two big innovations in the early 1900s that changed the way dentists treated patients. In 1903, Charles Land developed the porcelain crown, which covered the entire surface of the tooth. Also, in 1905, a German chemist named Alfred Einhorn formulated a new anesthetic called procaine. It was brought to the U.S. in 1907, and renamed novocaine. Also, in 1907, William McTaggart invented his “lost wax” casting machine, which allowed dentists to make cast fillings for cavities.

The first dental x-ray was introduced in the 1920s, when the Ritter Dental Company created the Model A Dental X-Ray. It was an effective diagnostic tool, but there were safety precautions. Both the dentist and the patient had to stay at least one foot away from the high-voltage wire that ran from the transformer cabinet to the x-ray head.

In the 1930s, a Colorado dentist named Frederick S. McKay discovered that the brown stains on his patients’ teeth were related to drinking water. His research verified that drinking water with high amounts of natural fluoride reduces cavities, but also leads to mottled tooth enamel. In the 1940s, H. Trendley Dean, director of the U.S. National Institute of Dental Research, established the ideal level of fluoride in drinking water that reduces tooth decay without mottling. Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first city in the world to fluoridate drinking water in 1945. The first fluoride toothpastes became available in the 1950s.

Swiss chemist Oskar Hagger developed the first system of bonding acrylic resin to teeth in 1949, and in 1955, Michael Buonocore invented the first white (composite) fillings.

The first electric toothbrush, the Broxodent, was created in Switzerland in 1954 by Dr. Philippe-Guy Woog. The Broxo Electric Toothbrush was introduced in the USA by E. R. Squibb and Sons Pharmaceuticals in 1959. In the late 80s, the first at-home tooth whitening system was introduced, and in the 90s, “invisible” braces were introduced in the US, offering an alternative to traditional braces.

Dentistry has come a long way and continues to advance to make sure that you have a strong and healthy set of teeth and gums. Schedule an appointment for modern care today!