As we know, dental hygiene plays an important role in maintaining oral health and preventing various dental problems. However, have you ever wondered about the origins and evolution of dental hygiene practices? In this article, we will take a fascinating journey through the history of dental hygiene. By exploring its ancient roots, milestones, and modern advancements, we can learn more about the development of dental hygiene.
Ancient Dental Practices
Dental hygiene has a long history that extends back thousands of years. Ancient societies practiced oral hygiene in a way that was distinctive to them. For instance, the Greeks and Romans employed a mixture of crushed bone and oyster shells as toothpaste. The ancient Egyptians utilized twigs with frayed ends as crude toothbrushes. These procedures established the basis for dental care as we know it today.
In fact, toothpaste existed before toothbrushes. According to Frank Lippert of the Indiana University School of Dentistry, around 3,000-5,000 B.C., ancient Egyptians first developed a dental cream. It contained powdered ashes from oxen hooves, myrrh, egg shells, and pumice. Around 1,000 B.C., the Persians added gypsum, herbs, honey, and charred oyster and snail shells.
Even centuries after the invention of professionally made equivalents, people kept making their own powders and toothpaste. For instance, an 1860 book titled The Practical Housewife once recommended a combination of powdered orris root, charcoal, Peruvian bark, prepared chalk, and oil of bergamot or lavender.
The Appearance of Modern Dental Hygiene
In the 19th century, dental hygiene as we know it now started to take shape. In 1840, the doctors Horace Hayden and Chapin Harris established the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. It was the first dental institution to pave the way for a formal curriculum. This was a crucial turning point in the development of dental hygiene as a profession.
The early 20th century saw a revolution in dental hygiene as a result of the fluoride benefits. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, according to research, which helps to prevent tooth decay. This prompted the development of fluoridated toothpaste and water treatment programs. Additionally, it significantly decreased the incidence of cavities and enhanced general oral health.
Advancements in Dental Hygiene Tools
The development of dental hygiene instruments has been extremely important in enhancing oral care. The first mass-produced toothbrushes with nylon bristles were launched in the late 19th century, replacing those with animal hair bristles. The invention of electric toothbrushes in the 20th century helped further improve oral hygiene procedures by removing plaque more successfully.
In the 1880s, a Connecticut dentist, Washington Wentworth Sheffield, is credited with the idea of packing toothpaste in squeezable tubes. The American Dental Association states that prior to that, it was frequently “sold in bottles, porcelain pots, or paper boxes.” The ADA argued the development made toothpaste “mass-produced in factories, mass-marketed, and sold across the nation.”
Dental hygiene has significantly improved as a result of technological breakthroughs. The use of intraoral cameras, digital radiography, and laser dentistry transformed diagnoses and treatment planning. With the technology, dental hygienists may treat patients more precisely and effectively, improving their oral health in the process.
Over time, as the field of oral hygiene developed, new technology was introduced. Dr. Clayton Gracey created the Gracey curettes in 1945. People developed the first ultrasonic scaler and completely reclined dental chairs by the 1950s. In order to replace rubber cup polishing, researchers created an ultrasonic scaler with a prophy jet in 1981. Dr. Esther Wilkins released Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist, also referred to as “the Dental Hygiene Bible,” in its first edition. It is worth noting that the aforementioned all exist in today’s dental hygiene setting.
The Role of Dental Hygienists
Dental hygienists are integral to the field of dental hygiene. The Connecticut dentist, Alfred Fones, recognized the significance of oral hygiene in 1907 to lessen the bacteria that caused caries. He then hired his cousin Irene Newman and taught her how to administer dental prophylaxis to his clients. Irene Newman established the field of dental hygiene by becoming the first certified practitioner in the early 20th century. She became the first “dental hygienist” to introduce dental hygiene responsibilities in a clinical context. As a result, Dr. Fones launched the nation’s first dental hygiene program in 1913 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Dental hygienists offer expert cleanings, educate patients about oral hygiene, and support dentists in preventing and treating gum disease.
Members of Connecticut’s first dental hygiene graduating class of 1914 were hired in a school-based setting considering kids’ oral cleanliness. The hospitals and school-based programs used to refer to these early dental hygienists as “dental nurses”. But Dr. Fones eventually altered it to “dental hygienist”. His accomplishments might also help Bridgeport, Connecticut post the lowest death rate of major cities during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
The Prospect of Dental Hygiene
The discipline of oral hygiene is constantly developing as we look to the future. Genetics, biomaterials, and preventative care studies and developments show significant promise for enhancing oral health outcomes. Furthermore, by combining telehealth with tele-dentistry, remote consultations and monitoring are possible. This helps improve access to dental treatment for underprivileged communities.
The history of dental hygiene can be a testament to the human pursuit of oral health and overall well-being. From ancient practices to modern advancements, dental hygiene has gone a long way. As we prioritize oral care, it is essential to look back at where we started and what we have achieved. It is a pleasure to note that public awareness of the relationship between overall health and dental health has increased. However, keep in mind that we should stay informed about the latest developments and maintain regular dental visits. After all, a healthy smile begins with proper dental hygiene!