Brief History of Cosmetic Dentistry

Our earliest ancestors must have realized the importance of oral hygiene. As early as 3,000 BC, people were cleaning their teeth with nothing more than sticks. Since then, cosmetic dentistry has taken great leaps forward. Today, Dr. James Fondriest provides state-of-the-art cosmetic dentistry procedures to perfect the smiles of his Chicago patients. To the Lake Forest Dental Arts team, cosmetic dentistry is an art form, and like all art forms, it has evolved over time as knowledge and experience have been applied to its development. Below are a few interesting facts about the history of cosmetic dentistry.

  • Evidence of dental implants dates back over a thousand years. Around 700 B.C., the Etruscans used ivory and bone to shape dentures. It was also common to use the teeth of dead animals or humans or for people to extract and sell their own teeth. The dentures smelled bad and didn’t last long, but this practice continued through the 1800s.
  • Ancient Egyptians also sought to replace missing teeth early on. They would hammer seashells into their gums to fill out the empty spaces in their smiles.
  • Early dentists weren’t entirely dentists at all. The late 12th century saw barbers overseeing the oral health of their clients. Barbers stopped performing surgery by the 15th century, but they continued to treat dental aesthetic problems. They would use acid to make teeth whiter, but the acid destroyed enamel, which is the tooth’s protective coating, and ruined teeth.
  • Dentists continued to innovate new ways to improve smiles. In the 1400s, Europeans began the using bone and ivory to fashion dentures, but they did not fit well and were extremely uncomfortable. In the 1700s, the practice of using human teeth was revived, but the same problems of discomfort and quick decay persisted as they did a thousand years before. Filling the sockets of lost teeth with metal didn’t work, either.
  • In the late 1700s, porcelain dentures were invented. In the 1800s, they were introduced in the U.S.
  • Porcelain dental crowns were not possible until the porcelain was fused with metal in the 1950s. Dentists had also begun using acrylic for dentures during this decade, and acrylic is still the standard for dentures today.
  • In the 1990s, the term “cosmetic dentist” was coined, and developments in the cosmetic dentistry industry continue to advance at an impressive rate.

Pilgrim Ingenuity

In those early days after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, there were no molded plastics and mass produced dental care items. Pilgrims and Native Americans relied on twigs or bones for the handle of their toothbrushes, and hair (from animals such as hogs) to form the bristles for brushing food particles and plaque buildup off of teeth. Other materials likely used for oral hygiene include yarrow root, herbs, and leaves.

Toothbrushes in Modern Times

After you indulge in our modern Thanksgiving bounty this Thursday, you’ll want to be sure to brush your teeth free of the sugars and complex carbohydrates that are a big part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. These foods provide sustenance for bacteria to create acid and adhere to teeth, beginning the process of cavities. If you find that brushing your teeth has become a chore, consider asking Santa for an electric toothbrush this year. These types of toothbrushes don’t technically brush your teeth better, but they require so much less effort that many people find reaching the minimum two-minute mark for a brushing session much easier.

Cosmetic dentistry has come a long way to reach the popularity it now enjoys. The techniques and procedures that Dr. Fondriest and his team offer are the result of over 1,000 years of dental cosmetic advancement. If you would like to learn more about cosmetic dentistry, or to make an appointment to see how it can benefit you and your smile, call our Lake Forest office at (847) 234-0517. We serve patients from the North Shore and Chicago.