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As you gather around loved ones this Thanksgiving Day, be thankful for modern dentistry. From “tooth worms” causing decay to nightmarish oral instruments, we’ve come a long way in understanding and treating all-things related to our mouths. It’s a good time to be alive.     

Well before Pierre Fauchard’s (a French surgeon known as the Father of Modern Dentistry) time, humans were fascinated with teeth, but they didn’t have the best way to treat ailments. 


Available descriptions of dental health dating back to 7,000 B.C. show that people believed tooth worms were the root cause of tooth decay (pun intended.) Extracting these tooth burrowing tube warriors took great prowess from those skilled at using a bow-drill (yikes!).      


Things didn’t improve much for the next 8,000 years. You read that correctly: 8,000 long years of oral treatment assaults. Dental advancement moved at a glacial pace, and sympathy for those living through these times is warranted. The good news is that tooth worms finally took a hike as the cause of tooth decay around 1700. 

Despite long-awaited improvements, dental patients still suffered through tooth extracts with instruments like dental pelicans and later on, dental keys. Both look to belong next to the rack in a torcher chamber. 

Through the 18th and 19th centuries, new devices were added to the physician’s arsenal to assist in the clean-up needed after the more rudimentary dental forceps did their job. Finger-rotated dental drills (1870s), secateurs (1810s; French for “cutters” or “scissors”), the goat’s foot elevator (1700s), and bone chisels (1780s) made for daintier work around patients’ delicate gums.      









Even the tongue couldn’t escape examination, and diseased portions of it were treated to the tongue ecraseur. This nifty instrument helped prevent infection from spreading by looping the chain over the infected area and tightening it, thus stopping blood from circulating to the area. Talk about tongue-tied. Perhaps that’s where the saying comes from.  blog-1

If you’re still reading this, we appreciate your curiosity. It’s comforting to know that the days we offer a sacrifice to heal dental disease or look to a priest to treat our toothaches before these wild instruments are used are long gone. Dentistry is now considered one of the most cutting-edge medical disciplines. And we’re very thankful for that. 

[Images courtesy of southcoastherald.co.za, dentalassistantschools.net, ]

Like this blog? Here is another recommended reading:

5 Things to Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving


Written by Smartbox

SmartBox employs the best minds in dentistry to help you grow your practice. Our Practice Growth System™ is proven to help dentists in every market area across the country achieve predictable year-over-year growth.

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