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p: (503) 967-0877
1524 Commercial St S.E. Salem, OR 97302

History of Dentistry


Patient smiling in dental chair learning about the history of dentistry from her Salem dentist at Fairmount Dental Center.Dentistry may seem like a modern invention, but the fact is, it is one of the world’s oldest professions and goes back in time thousands of years. The earliest documentation of dentistry as we know it was first noted around 5,000 B.C., but there is strong evidence of it being practiced even 2,000 years before that. The history of dentistry is both rich and fascinating, making our profession one of the most prolific and exciting ones known to humankind! We here at Fairmount Dental Center are proud of our work and our contributions to this impressively historical field of medicine!

The Practice of Dentistry: Then and Now


Try, for a moment, to imagine receiving dental treatment several millennia ago. Without the aid of modern technology, it was a brutal field indeed! Earliest dentists didn’t have access to a sanitary and sterile office as we do now, and they certainly did not offer their “patients” anesthesia! Many of our earliest ancestors probably perished from infections and complications of these early dental treatments.

Ancient dentists strongly believed that “tooth worms” were the cause of all dental problems, which sounds silly now, but humans held onto that notion even as recently as the 1700s! Earliest dental drills were made out of stone, and fillings (which were most likely placed to stop the pain of the cavity) were made out of beeswax. Greek historians Aristotle and Hippocrates (the great Greek physician) spoke of dentistry in their writings, but it would take over a thousand years before any official books about teaching dentistry would ever be penned.

Finally, in 1530, the first book designed to teach dentistry was finally written and was called The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth. It was the leading literature for another 200 years until the Father of Modern Dentistry (a French man by the name of Pierre Fauchard) wrote his book in 1723, called The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth. In it, he described how to take care of teeth and was perhaps the first person to note that sugar could lead to tooth decay. He also introduced fillings and dentures in his book.

The world’s first dental school opened in Baltimore, Maryland, nearly 120 years later. The first dental practice followed a year later, in 1941, in Alabama. In 1859, nearly twenty years later, the American Dental Association was formed and is still recognized today as the leading authority on dental care. Eight years later, Harvard opened their dental school, leading the way to the modern practice of dentistry as we know it.

The first patent for a toothbrush came out in 1857, two years before the formation of the ADA, and nylon toothbrushes didn’t follow until DuPont introduced them in 1938. Before that, people had to use brushes made out of animal hair, like boar or horse. Twigs and wood were common substitutes before that, showing that people throughout history knew the importance of clean teeth!

If you are curious about learning more about dentistry, we would love to discuss it with you further! To schedule an appointment with us here at Fairmount Dental Center, or simply for more information about us, please give us a call here at (503) 967-0877 today!
Map of Fairmount Dental Center - Salem Dentist

Our Office Address:

1524 Commercial St S.E.
Salem, OR 97302


p: (503) 967-0877

Business Hours:

Monday - Thursday
8:00 AM - 4:30 PM


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