Mummy Dental Work | Image by

Give Me A Break! No, Not That Kind!

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Every once and a while I start to wonder if it weren’t for my bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all. This latest bout of questionable luck started just before Christmas 2017 when the crown on my right front tooth came out. I had a crown with a post to hold it in first put in back in the 1960s when I was in high school. I fell going up my basement stairs and broke that front tooth exposing the nerve. I had a root canal done and the crown was put in. Many years later I had to have that crown replaced.

A Permanent Bridge
Diagram Showing How A Permanent Bridge Like Mine Was placed | Image by Caring Dentists

Now we arrive at Friday December 22, 2017 and the crown falls out at bedtime while I’m flossing my teeth. It had to happen on the Friday night before Christmas when the next day I had to travel to Portland with my church choir to sing at Christmas hymns at “The Grotto.” Saturday morning I went to the drugstore and bought one of those crown repair kits. I put the putty-like substance on the crown and glued it in. The crown stayed put, the singing went well and after Christmas I called my dentist to check it out. I was assuming that it would be professionally glued back on and that would be that. But no, the base tooth was cracked and had a cavity inside (That’s probably why it fell out.).

My Close-up
2006 Publicity Picture From KVAL-TV | Photo by Walt Grondona (Walt’s Photography Now in Coburg)
Looks Like Real Teeth
Showing Off My New Bridge | Photo by Suzanne Chuey

The tooth had to be pulled and I had to have a permanent bridge made. It took a couple of months before it was all done including a bone graft. They did a great job!

We slide on to the month of August this year. Just days after I had my teeth cleaned I bit down and the back upper molar on the right side broke. I looked in the mirror and part of the side of the tooth was gone exposing a large filling. Not a simple job just repairing the tooth, but a new crown had to be made to properly fix the tooth. I have the temporary crown on now and Tuesday September 4th is the day the new crown was scheduled to be attached. I really like my dental team, Eugene Dental Group with Dr. Elizabeth Vivona and Dr. Melanie Rawlings, but I would like a little break from having major dental procedures performed on me.

Hippocrates And Selsus
Aphorisms of Hippocrates And The The Sentences Of Selsus | Image by Biomed Rare Books

This got me thinking about the practice of dentistry. When did it all start and who started it? That is the topic of this week’s column. According to the American Dental Association website here is the timeline of the history of dentistry: [5,000 BC – A Sumerian text describes “tooth worms” as the cause of tooth decay; 2,600 BC – The death of Hesy-Re, an Egyptian scribe, often called the “first dentist.” An inscription on his tomb includes the title “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.” This is the earliest known reference to a person identified as dental practitioner; 1,750-1,550 BC – An Egyptian text, the Ebers Papyrus, refers to diseases of the teeth and various toothache remedies; 500-300 BC – Hippocrates and Aristotle write about dentistry, including the eruption pattern of teeth, treating decayed teeth with forceps, and using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws; 100 BC – Celsus, a Roman medical writer, writes extensively in his important compendium of medicine on oral hygiene, stabilization of loose teeth, and treatments for toothache, teething pain, and and jaw fractures; and lastly 166-201 AD – The Etruscans practice dental prosthetics using gold crowns and fixed bridgework.] The last entry has special significance for my particular situations. The most dramatic comparison I can make that is a life-changer for me is the dental anesthesia that is used today but was not available when the procedures were pioneered. I can’t imagine the pain experienced by those patients.

I’m not going to show you every entry they have in the history of dentistry, but I will give you some of what seem to be the most important historical details. Claude Mouton, back in 1746 described gold crowns with a post that would fit into the root canal (Mine was a modern version of that.) He was also the first to suggest white enameling to cover the gold crowns making them look more like real teeth. In 1760 John Baker was the medically-trained dentist to immigrate from England and set up his practice in America.

Dr. Joseph Warren
Paul Revere Identified Body of Dr. Joseph Warren | image by Old State House

Television shows like “Bones” and the “CSI” franchise use modern technology to identify victims by using dental records. The first documented case occurred in 1776 when Paul Revere identified the body of his friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, because the man was wearing a dental bridge that Revere had made for him. It’s hard to believe but the first patent for porcelain teeth was issued to Nicolas Dubois Chemant, a Frenchman, in 1789. You say you don’t like reclining in the dentist’s chair, well then you can blame James Snell who invented the first reclining dental chair in 1832.

College of Dental Surgery
Baltimore College of Dental Surgery | Image by

The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was the world’s first school of dentistry founded in 1840 by Horace Hayden and Chapin Harris. This next one is my favorite without which I wouldn’t have survived certain dental procedures. The first successful use of ether as an anesthetic for dental surgery occurred in 1846 and was performed by dentist William Morton. The first woman to earn a dental degree was Lucy Beaman Hobbs in 1866. She attained the degree at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. In 1871 James B. Morrison patented the first commercially manufactured foot-treadle dental engine which gave the dental burr (drill) enough speed to cut through teeth quickly and smoothly.

1st Dental X-Ray
Dr. Edwin Kells First Dental X-Ray | Image by slideshare

In 1896 dentist C. Edmond Kells took the first dental X-Rays of a living person in the United States. Now we arrive at the 20th century and again we find a significant development that makes my dental appointments more pleasant.

Alfred Einhorn
Alfred Einhorn Develops Novocain | Image by slideserve

In 1905 a German chemist named Alfred Einhorn developed the anesthetic called procain which now has the trade name Novocain. Rafael Bowen developed Bis-GMA, the thermoset resin complex used in most modern composite resin restorative materials (Now even more modern fillings look like natural teeth).

That, believe it or not, is just a thumb-nail sketch of how dentistry has become the modern complicated practice that we have become accustomed to. It should be interesting to see what improvements are yet to come.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].