Technology

200 Years of Dental Innovation

From the inventor of dental floss through to the titanium dental implant, dental has been innovating for hundreds of years.

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Follow us through time to meet inventors and innovators who brought new ideas and devices to the industry at large.

CREDITS: Science Photo Library (floss, false teeth, early dental x-ray); Cocaine bottle courtesy of Paravis; Porcelain crown courtesy of Harvey Passes, D.D.S.

1815
1815

New Orleans dentist Levi Spear Parmly is credited as the inventor of modern dental floss.

1839
1839

Charles Goodyear invents the vulcanization process for hardening rubber. This material, Vulcanite, easily molds to the mouth and makes an inexpensive base for false teeth. It will become a dentist's dream material.

    1864
    1864

    Volcanized rubber is used to make the Vulcanite denture. It substitutes for difficult and costly gold dentures, allowing dentists to supply dentures at a lower cost.

    1866
    1866

    Lucy Hobbs Taylor is the first American woman to graduate from dental school.

    1875
    1875

    The first electric drill is patented by George F. Green.

    1884
    1884

    Carl Koller uses cocaine as a topical anesthetic.

    1890
    1890

    Willoughby Dayton Miller, an American dentist in Germany, notes the microbial basis of dental decay, starting a worldwide movement to promote regular toothbrushing. Colgate introduces toothpaste in a tube.

    1896
    1896

    New Orleans dentist Charles Edmund Kells takes the first dental x-ray of a living person in the U.S.

    1899
    1899

    Edward Hartley Angle classifies the various forms of malocclusion. Credited with making orthodontics into a dental specialty and establishing the first school of orthodontics.

      1903
      1903

      Charles H. Land fashions the porcelain jacket crown.

      1905
      1905

      Alfred Einhorn, a German chemist, formulates the local anesthetic procaine, which is later marketed under the trademark Novocain.

      1908
      1908

      Greene Vardiman Black, the leading reformer and educator of American dentistry, publishes his monumental two-volume treatise Operative Dentistry, which remains the essential clinical dental text for 50 years.

      1917
      1917

      Connecticut resident Irene Newman received the first dental hygienist license.

      1937
      1937

      Alvin Strock inserts a dental screw implant made of Vitallium—an alloy of cobalt, chromium and other substances—which becomes the first successful biocompatible implant metal.

      1938
      1938

      The first nylon toothbrush appears on the market

      1945
      1945

      Grand Rapids, Michigan, becomes the first city in the world to fluoridate drinking water.

        1955

        Michael Buonocore formulates white (composite) fillings. He also details a method of bonding resin to tooth enamel, enabling dentists to repair cracked enamel on front teeth.

        1957
        1957

        John Borden invents a high-speed, air-driven hand drill, increasing drill power from the traditional 5,000 rpm (rotations per minute) to 300,000 rpm.

        1958

        The first fully reclining dental chair is introduced, allowing patients greater comfort and enabling the dentist to use an assistant to help with procedures.

        1960
        1960

        Sit-down, "four-handed" dentistry becomes common as most dentists engage dental assistants to help with procedures.

        1965
        1965

        Per-Ingvar Brånemark inserts a titanium dental implant into a volunteer patient who has no bottom teeth. By 1980, he proved that titanium could be successfully integrated into living tissue.

        1989

        The first commercial at-home tooth bleaching product goes on the market.

        1990
        1990

        The first effective "invisible" braces made of clear plastic are invented, offering an alternative to traditional braces.

        1996
        1996

        Hard tissue lasers are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use on enamel and dentin to treat tooth decay.

          2000
          2000

          A growing body of research correlates oral health to overall health.

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