History of Dentist – First Dentist, Toothbrush & Evolution

Dentistry is one of the oldest professions in the world because of the need from very early human life. It has been there since civilization, both for cosmetic and health reasons.

It has taken several forms throughout its existence, from primitive approaches to modern treatments.

Because dentistry is very close to humans and works to make human lives better and easier, it also goes hand-in-hand with the advancements in technology.

That’s why dentistry has seen many challenges and different approaches over the years. It wasn’t all those state-of-the-art dental clinics we visit today.

From the very early BC dates to today, dentistry didn’t just evolve in technology. It also evolved in the types of treatments and specialties.

Throughout time, new specialties came to light, some to help how your smile looks like and some to help your treatment in a better way.

The main aim of all these developments was to provide a better approach to dentistry.

Most of these developments made the trip to the dentist more comfortable and effective in treatments.

Here, we will be taking a close look at the history of the dentistry industry and how it became the modern clinics we visit today.

History Of Dentist

The Beginning Of Dentistry

Beginning Of Dentistry

Some say that dentistry is as old as civilization itself, as humans have always needed treatment for their teeth.

This is partially true because the evidence of the first dentistry industry dates back to 7000 BCE in Indus Valley Civilization.

Because civilizations and technologies were not as developed as today, dental procedures were also quite different.

Archaeologists’ discoveries from those times tell us that the dental industry was mostly using bow drills in most parts of dental procedures.

Perhaps these procedures were the first attempts at dental procedures between humans. Throughout centuries, the importance of dentistry grew at an exponential rate.

As more people became aware of oral hygiene’s importance, new treatments and procedures started to come to light as the industry kept growing.

Depending on from one location to another, dentistry was either in a better or worse position.

For example, In the Islamic Civilization, scientists started treating dislocated jaws, preventing fractures, and other treatments.

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First Dentists in History

First Dentists in History

When the dentistry industry first came into existence around 7000 BCE, so did the dentists who had to work in the industry.

These dentists in ancient times were not the ones that we know today. Their method of working was extremely different than that of today.

In addition to that, as time passed, even barbers were some sort of dentists, helping people with tooth extraction.

According to the evidence, the first dentists attempted to fix their patients’ cavities with bow drills. These bow drills were used as woodworking tools.

This means that the first dentists in history used wooden tools to treat their patients, fill cavities, extract teeth, and perform other similar routine treatments.

In Ancient Greece, Aristotle and Hippocrates also talked about the methods of tooth extraction, as we can see from the documents.

Additionally, in the Middle Ages of Europe, you would have to go to your barber if you needed a tooth extraction. Pulling teeth was a routine part of a barber’s job description at the time.

First Toothbrush, Toothpaste and Dental Floss Invention

First Toothbrush, Toothpaste and Dental Floss Invention

Toothbrushes and toothpaste came way after the dentistry industry started.

Because dentists of the time were only focusing on the treatment and not the prevention, it took time for them to develop.


According to the historical findings, Babylonians and Egyptians were using twigs with edges frayed to clean their teeth around 3000 BCE.

The first bristle toothbrushes similar to the ones we used today appeared in China in 1498.

The toothbrushes with the modern design – as we know of today, were made in England around the 1780s.

Those toothbrushes were made from cow-bone handles and bristles from pigs and their hides.

Here is the timeline of toothbrushes:

  • Came into use around 3000 BCE
  • First bristle toothbrush appearance in 1498
  • Modern design toothbrushes were made in 1780
  • Mass production of toothbrushes started in 1885


It is estimated that the first toothpaste was in use around 5000 BCE by Egyptians to clean teeth. Well before the first toothbrush was invented, toothpaste was already in the lives of civilizations.

The paste Egyptians used was in use for many long times. Indians and Chinese also used it around 500 BCE.

The mass production of toothpaste in jars started in 1873 by Colgate, and then they switched to the tubes we use now around the 1890s.

Contrary to toothbrushes, toothpaste didn’t go through major changes over time, and it’s been in use way more than toothbrushes.

Here is the timeline of toothpaste invention:

  • First use in 5000 BCE
  • Mass production in jars started in 1873 by Colgate
  • Colgate started mass production in tubes in the 1890s.

Dental Floss

Dental floss was never as important as toothbrushes or toothpaste throughout history.

The usage of dental floss is still way lower than the other two about oral hygiene. That also meant that dental floss didn’t have much development history.

In prehistoric people and also up until about the 16th century, twigs and horsehair were quite popular in using dental floss.

These might have changed over time from twigs and horsehair to something else, but these two were the most commonly used dental flosses to clear particles stuck between teeth.

Then, a dentist from Louisiana in 1815 started to advocate the use of thin strands made from waxen material to clean particles between teeth. And then, in 1882, the manufacture of silk dental flosses as we know of today developed.

Sixteen years later, after the silk dental floss invention, Johnson & Johnson got a patent for dental floss, and they introduced it to people around the world.

  • Prehistoric people used twigs and horsehair to clean between their teeth, making it the first dental floss in history.
  • Thin strands made from waxen material were developed by a dentist in Louisiana in 1815.
  • As we use them today, Silk dental flosses were invented in 1882, and manufacturing started.
  • Johnson & Johnson got a patent for dental floss in 1898, which is the silk dental floss manufactured in 1882. Once they got the patent, they started to distribute it to the masses around the world.

Dentures Timeline of Development

Dentures Timeline of Development

Even though dentistry came into existence very early, replacing a tooth with an artificial one was not always there.

Humans have lost their teeth all the time, or their teeth got somehow damaged because of a reason and needed replacement.

People were not replacing their lost or damaged teeth because there was no way, but then dentures developed:

  • Etruscans who lived in Northern Italy started to craft artificial teeth from either human or animal teeth in around 700 BCE. These types of artificial teeth stayed in use for thousands of years. They were very popular, and quite a lot of people used them, according to the archaeology findings.
  • Later in time, Japan created a full denture made out of wood in the 16th century. These didn’t stay in use as much as the ancient artificial teeth because a new artificial tooth came to use about a century later.
  • Replacement teeth made from ivory in the 17th century started to take their place. The US President at the time, George Washington, was one of the first users of these dentures. That’s why they became popular real quick.
  • In the same century, we saw a new type of artificial teeth in around the 1770s. The porcelain dentures. However, they didn’t stay for long, either.
  • From the 1850s onwards, dentures got some sort of upgrade. Porcelain teeth that also have hardened rubber started to take their place in dentistry.

Interesting Facts About Dentistry

Evolution of Dentistry

Dentistry has a long history and a slow trajectory of evolution from its discovery in 7000 BCE to today. The reason for that is mostly due to the fact of the development in technologies in the world.

Even though it took thousands of years to develop, the last few centuries have been seeing a fast rise in dentistry’s evolution.

Ancient Dentistry

When dentistry first came into existence, it was very limited. There weren’t many treatments, preventions, or other things to fix issues.

It was mostly for small things like fixing cavities or tooth extraction. Dentistry started getting more attention and importance in Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages.

Important people like Aristotle and Hippocrates in Ancient Greece and Abulcasis in the Arab World all put time and effort into showing the importance and developing dentistry.

In the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization, dentistry sees massive upgrades, with many scholars writing papers on treatments and prevention of certain issues.

At the end of ancient times, there were already treatments for extractions, dislocated jaws and preventing fractures in and around your teeth.

This was also the period when Europe was behind in developing dentistry. Because you would only get cavity filling and tooth extractions and it was barbers who did those tooth extractions.

Starting of Modern Dentistry

Modern dentistry has many different parts to it. That’s because even though we call it modern, it took too many differences to get to the point we are now.

However, the starting point of modern dentistry is close to our centuries rather than its invention in 7000 BCE.

In around early 18th century, modern dentistry, like what we have today, started to take its shape.

The idea started floating around when the father of modern dentistry, Pierre Fauchard, wrote “The Surgeon Dentist.”

This book was the first book to talk about a comprehensive wide array of dentistry systems.

Thanks to this book, the dental industry started to take a better shape. It was a more comprehensive system looking at every part of oral health.

This comprehensive look resulted in coming up with more treatments, preventions, and new departments.

Modern Dentistry Taking Its Current Shape

The time that modern dentistry really started to take the shape of today’s starts around the 19th century. The first dental college opened its doors in the 19th century in the United States.

This dental college helped to develop dentistry as a whole system which led to the United States finding the American Dental Association (ADA). This association is the oldest and largest dental organization in the world.

When 26 dentists came together to form ADA, the dental industry already found and were using anesthesia for oral surgeries.

This comes as a massive development considering all the treatments people were doing up to that date were without anesthesia.

The development of the X-ray, one of the most notable discoveries in the dental industry, also happened in the same century.

Notable Moments in Dentistry History

Notable Moments in Dentistry History
  • The first legally recognized dental practitioner was an Egyptian scribe who lived around 2600 B.C., Hesy-Re.
  • The first African American to get his dental degree in the world did it in 1869.
  • The first female person to work as a dental assistant was in New Orleans in 1885.
  • The first dental X-ray was produced in 1896.
  • The creator of the first orthodontics school was Edward H. Angle in 1901. He also created a classification system for crooked teeth in the late 1800s, and we still use that system today.
  • The first licensed female dentist was Lucy Beaman Hobbs, who got her license in 1866.
  • The first person to train to clean teeth was a dental assistant named Irene Newman in 1905. She then became the first dental hygienist.

The Verdict

Over the period of tens of thousands of years, dentistry was always important.

Ever since its discovery in the 7000 BCE, humans have always tried to develop better treatment tools and prevent certain problems.

While developing these treatments, dentistry became a wide phenomenon that focuses on everything about teeth and the jaw.

This led humans to come up with more and more applications for the dental industry, which gave us modern dentistry as we know it today with many developments.





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