Oral Surgery: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The 18th Century
  • Dental Surgery of 19th century
  • The Early Years of Dental Forceps


Dentistry has come a long way. Since the dawn of history, mankind has worked to develop methods for keeping that most hated of enemies, tooth decay, at bay. It's a fascinating, rich history, full of famous figures showing up and contributing to it in surprising ways.Ancient History of Oral SurgeryReferences to dentistry go as far back as 5000 BC! A Sumerian text from this date in history describes "tooth worms" as the cause of tooth decay.The ancient Egyptians also wrote about teeth in their work and even offer remedies for toothaches and oral diseases. And both Aristotle and Hippocrates wrote about dentistry in their works, going so far as to discuss methods of tooth extraction and using wire to stabilize loose teeth and jaws.The greatest advancements in dentistry in the ancient world came from the Etruscans. While the Etruscans are best known for their sculpture, they were also early innovators in the world of dental health. Middle Ages Dentistry became more commonplace over time, but its professionals came from a different industry altogether. The first dentists were barbers! In Europe barbers didn't just cut hair, they also did tooth extractions. Much of the knowledge and methods of these "barber-surgeons" became more widespread after 1575.This is when Ambrose Pare publishes his Complete Works. Known as the Father of Surgery, Pare's book contains all kinds of practical information about tooth extractions, treating tooth decay and how to fix jaw fractures.

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The 18th Century

In 1723 a French surgeon by the name of Pierre Fauchard publishes The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth. It's the first book to describe a comprehensive system for practicing dentistry, covering basic oral anatomy and function, operative and restorative dental techniques, and denture construction. The 19th CenturyThe innovations keep on coming! Porcelain teeth start getting mass manufactured, the first reclining dental chair is invented, vulcanite dentures revolutionize the field and a substance called "amalgam filling" is created as the first known filling material for teeth. The world's first dental journal, The American Journal of Dental Science, begins publication.

Dental Surgery of 19th century

The 19th century also ushers in the world's first dental school, The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, and its first national dental organization: The American Society of Dental Surgeons.The Twentieth Century...All the innovations of preceding centuries snowball and grow exponentially in this one. The twentieth century brings us so many changes that it's hard to keep track of them all. Precision cast fillings, water fluoridation, nylon toothbrushes, electric toothbrushes, laser surgery procedures, dental implants, pinhole surgical techniques and so many other exciting and life-changing dental techniques in development. The Evolution of Dental ForcepsDental instruments have changed drastically since the earliest of times before there was a dental profession. In those early days, people would use whatever tools were available to perform a tooth extraction. The procedure was not only painful, but because formal dental education did not exist, additional damage occurred to the gum and bone.With time, instruments specific to dental care, including dental forceps, were developed and they have evolved tremendously since their creation.

The Early Years of Dental Forceps

Extracting a tooth today is remarkably easier and less painful than it was hundreds of years ago. According to the American Dental Association, Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about dental care as early as 500 B.C. when wire was used to stabilize loose teeth.Some of the earliest records detail how a tooth extraction was performed with a tool like an old metal door key.Using this tool would damage gum, bone, and occasionally jaws were broken during the procedure. Dental keys eventually evolved to dental forceps, which are still in use today.The earliest dental forceps in the 17th century resembled a pair of pliers and then during the Civil War era, they featured a sharp "drill" in the center to get to the root. Since then, dental forceps are easier for the dentist to use and less painful on the patient.Modern Day ForcepsLessons have been learned from history and applied to today's dental forceps. They now offer a variety of features that include an ergonomically designed handle to reduce hand fatigue, a tapered profile that wedges into the socket and fits on crowded teeth, and a greater serration pattern. Forceps are considerably lighter than the earliest versions and offer remarkable precision.Modern dental forceps are also specifically designed to be used in pediatric dentistry. Because forceps have a long history of being traumatic on the patient and previously causing further damage, they are now specially designed to have significantly less fracture on the roots.

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