The history of dentistry – facts and stats

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It’s no secret that the field of dentistry can be somewhat dry for the layman…! But some of the facts and stats below are pretty fascinating…. Learn more about their history of dentistry and about some of the bizarre materials used in the past….

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  • The first materials reported to be used for dentistry and orthodontics were animal intestines, stone and previous metals such as gold and silver – gold and silver are still used for fillings in 2016.
  • During the middle ages, twigs made from sweet-smelling wood were used by wealthy Europeans to clean their teeth.
  • In 1780 an Englishman, William Addis, invented a brush with a handle made from cattle bone and bristles made from swine.
  • Your teeth are the most hard-wearing substance found in the body and tooth enamel is the most highly mineralised part of the body.
  • The science of orthodontics did not emerge until the 1880s, though teeth-straightening as a practice existed long before this (see point 1).
  • The first toothbrush was invented in 1857 by H.N Wadsworth, an American. The design followed a patterned three-row toothbrush design, with serrated bristles. In 1938, nylon brushes replaced these, featuring the plastic handles that we have today.
  • The first electric toothbrush was developed in the United States in 1960.
  • Toothpaste has been around since 500 B.C, originating in India and China. Compounds including chalk and flavours were added to toothpaste during the 1850s in order to develop a substance that worked. Post World War 2, additional agents were used, resulting in the addition of fluoride, which is still used today.
  • Lucy Hobbs was the first woman to earn a D.D.S degree, from Ohio College of Dental Surgery- before this, only men were allowed to practice dentistry. In 1905 Irene Newman, a dental assistant, became the first dental hygienist.
  • 90% of systemic diseases have oral manifestations.
  • People who brush their teeth once a day are 33% more likely to develop tooth decay.
  • Failing to floss means you are missing 35% of your tooth surfaces.
  • The production of saliva is essential to good oral hygiene – salvia cleanses the mouth of bad bacteria.
  • Since 2011, 1 in 5 people receiving treatment for misaligned teeth is an adult.


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