History of Dentistry

Innovations in Techniques and Technology—The 20th Century

1900—Fifty-seven dental schools exist by this year.

1900Federation Dentaire Internationale (FDI) is formed.

1903—Charles Land devises the porcelain jacket crown.

1905—Alfred Einhorn, a German chemist, formulates the local anesthetic procain, later marketed under the trade name Novocain.

1907—William Taggart invents a “lost wax” casting machine, allowing dentists to make precision cast fillings.

1908—Greene Vardiman Black, the leading reformer and educator of American dentistry, publishes his monumental two-volume treatise Operative Dentistry, which remains the essential clinical dental text for fifty years.  Black later develops techniques for filling teeth, standardizes operative procedures and instrumentation, develops an improved amalgam, and pioneers the use of visual aids for teaching dentistry.

1910—The first formal training program for dental nurses is established at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery by Cyrus M. Wright. The program is discontinued in 1914 mainly due to opposition by Ohio dentists.

1911—The U.S. Army Dental Corps is established as the first armed services dental corps in the U.S.  The Navy  institutes its Dental Corps in 1912.

1913—Alfred C. Fones opens the Fones Clinic For Dental Hygienists in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the world’s first oral hygiene school.  Most of the twenty—seven women graduates of the first class are employed by the Bridgeport Board of Education to clean the teeth of school children. The greatly reduced incidence of caries among these children gives impetus to the dental hygienist movement.  Dr. Fones, first to use the term “dental hygienist,” becomes known as the Father of Dental Hygiene.

1917—Irene Newman receives the world’s first dental hygiene license in Connecticut.

1923—American Association of Dental Schools is established.

1924—American Dental Assistants Association is founded by Juliette Southard and her female colleagues. Female dental assistants were first hired in the 19th century when “Lady in Attendance” signs were routinely seen in the windows of dental offices. Their duties included chair-side assistance, instrument cleaning, inventory, appointments, bookkeeping, and reception.

1926—The Carnegie Foundation-sponsored Gies Report, the first comprehensive report on the state of dental education, is published and has an immediate impact on the dental profession.

1928—National Board of Dental Examiners is established.

1930—The American Board of Orthodontics, the world’s first dental specialty board, is founded.

1930–1943—Frederick S. McKay, a Colorado dentist, is convinced that brown stains (mottling) on his patients’ teeth are related to their water supply. McKay’s research verifies that drinking water with high levels of naturally occurring fluoride is associated with low dental caries and a high degree of mottled enamel.  By the early 1940s, H. Trendley Dean determines the ideal level of fluoride in drinking water to substantially reduce decay without mottling.

1933—The first National Board dental examinations are conducted. 83 candidates are examined in 4 cities.

1938—The nylon toothbrush, the first made with synthetic bristles, appears on the market.

1937—Alvin Strock inserts the first Vitallium dental screw implant.  Vitallium, the first successful biocompatible implant metal, had been developed a year earlier by Charles Venable, an orthopedic surgeon.

1940s—22,000 dentists serve in World War II.

1945—The water fluoridation era begins when the cities of Newburgh, New York, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, add sodium fluoride to their public water systems.

1948—President Harry S. Truman signs the Congressional bill formally establishing the National Institute of Dental Research and initiating federal funding for dental research.  The name changes to National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in 1998.

1950s—The first fluoride toothpastes are marketed.

1949—Oskar Hagger, a Swiss chemist, develops the first system of bonding acrylic resin to dentin.

1955—Michael Buonocore describes the acid etch technique, a simple method of increasing the adhesion of acrylic fillings to enamel.

1957—John Borden introduces a high-speed air-driven contra-angle handpiece. The Airotor obtains speeds up to 300,000 rotations per minute and is an immediate commercial success, launching a new era of high-speed dentistry.

1957 —The Social Security Act is amended to include self-employed dentists.

1958—A fully reclining dental chair is introduced.

1960s—Sit down, four-handed dentistry becomes popular in the U.S.  This technique improves productivity and shortens treatment time.

1960s—Lasers are developed and approved for soft tissue procedures.

1960—The first commercial electric toothbrush, developed in Switzerland after World War II, is introduced in the United States.  A cordless, rechargeable model follows in 1961.

1962—Rafael Bowen develops Bis-GMA, the thermoset resin complex used in most modern composite resin restorative materials.

1980s—Per-Ingvar Branemark describes techniques for the osseointegration of dental implants.

1989—The first commercial home tooth bleaching product is marketed.

1990s—New tooth-colored restorative materials plus increased usage of bleaching, veneers, and implants inaugurate an era of esthetic dentistry.

1997—FDA approves the erbium YAG laser, the first for use on dentin, to treat tooth decay.