I had another trip to the dentist last week. Fortunately it was not a painful visit, neither in terms of treatment nor in terms of my bank balance. And I will be getting to buy myself a new toy to play with – a waterpik – once I’ve taken advice from the hygienist. Yay! I am really looking forward to that.
We were discussing what makes people go into dentistry at work this week. What is the appeal about looking in people’s mouths every day? Of course, the conversation took a turn and we started discussing other jobs that seem strange, to us office workers. Gynaecology was right up there. All you dentists and gynaecologists out there please don’t be offended, I am really glad that you do what you do; they just aren’t jobs that appeal to me. But then again, I guess maybe you guys wouldn’t want to do what I do.
Mind you, Suzette, who works with me, says that her most desired jobs are to be either a chambermaid or a picker at Argos. I’m not sure that I get either of those either.
How many of us get to do our preferred jobs in life, I wonder? When I was growing up, little boys were supposed to want to do things like becoming a train driver. I think that had something to do with the memory of the halcyon days of steam. I remember that I wanted to be an actress, which is the biggest joke going, because one of my forays into that world was when I played the narrator in something, I remember not what, and kept rushing off stage before I’d got the words out. I seem to recall playing a character called Johan in a play called A Charcoal Burner’s son, but it was only a short run. One night, I believe.
Anyway, the actress thing did not survive into adulthood, although I have done several Oscar winning performances over the years, both professionally and personally, if you get my drift… Back to dentristry.
The Ancient Egyptians suffered from dental problems, apparently they had a lot of sugar in their diets, and we all know what that does to our teeth, don’t we? As a result of the climate and burial methods in Ancient Egypt there are a number of artefacts that show that dentistry was practised there and dates back to at least 5000BC, probably earlier. One of the remains found shows that they drilled into the mouth to drain an abscess. That must have been painful, it’s bad enough when we get an anaesthetic and I don’t think they had that all that time ago. I expect that they used something to numb the pain though. Wine maybe? It wasn’t until the 1790s when a British chemist started to experiment with nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, to help with pain. In 1863, it was mixed with oxygen before dispensing. In fact, I remember having teeth removed when I was a child and gas was used to put me out. I don’t remember too much laughing going on though.
Once the ball had started rolling, other anaesthetics were developed, and by 1900 cocaine was regularly used, however, once it was found to be addictive, its use was stopped. In 1905 a German chemist discovered procaine, which was developed and marketed as Novocain and proved very popular. It didn’t last for long though as a number of people had allergic reactions and the effects wore off quite quickly. Nowadays, most UK dentists use Lidocaine. Topicals, containing benzocaine, may also be used. In fact, I think they are essential.
The earliest filling is believed to be from as far back 6500BC, is made from beeswax. It seems that the drilling was done by bead craftsmen! Is that, I wonder, where the fashion to have jewels embedded in teeth?
From about the Middle Ages up to the 19th century, dentistry was not a profession in itself; it was often practised by barbers or physicians. It was a French surgeon, Pierre Fauchard, known as the father of modern dentistry who adapted tools used by jewellers and watchmakers for use in dentistry. He pioneered dental prostheses made from ivory or bone and it was he who introduced dental braces.
The first toothbrushes were made of twigs smashed at one end to provide a greater surface area for cleaning, but the Chinese were the first to make a bristle brush. It first came to Europe in the 17th century. The Swiss developed the first effective electric toothbrush after the Second World War, introduced in the United States in 1960, although the first one was marketed in 1880. The first cordless electric toothbrush was marketed in 1961.
The earliest toothpastes were made from powdered fruit, ground nut shells, talcum powder and dried flowers. If you were lucky. Other ingredients were mice, lizard livers, urine and rabbit heads. Can you imagine it? If you didn’t have bad breath before, you would do after that. Mind you, as toothpaste manufacture continued to develop, some other ingredients were even less savoury, and contained ingredients that dissolved the tooth enamel. Proctor and Gamble introduced Crest toothpaste in 1956.
The first toothpaste tube that we know and love was first marketed in 1892, with the pump dispenser being introduced a hundred years later in 1984.
Some famous people have shown an interest in dentistry over the years…
The famous gambler and gunfighter, Doc Holliday, graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in 1872, when he was just 20 years old.
Mark Spitz, Olympic Gold Medallists in 1972 had been accepted into dental school but gave it up to concentrate on his swimming career.
American Western author, Zane Grey, practised dentistry in New York before he became a bestselling novelist.
Paul Revere of American Revolution fame was a silversmith who also worked as a dentist and was famous for making false teeth for his patients.
Famous people who’ve had their gnashers improved:
Nicholas Cage… In 1984 he had some teeth removed and some smartening up done to the rest.
Gary Busey has had a full set of veneers.
George Clooney. Apparently he grinds his teeth so has a full set of veneers.
Victoria Beckham. Just take a look at the photographs pre-Spice Girls fame.
Tom Cruise. He had really crooked teeth before he had them straightened out.
Ben Affleck had veneers to lengthen his teeth.
50 Cent, the rapper. He is reputed to have spent over $50,000 on them so let’s hope they are good.
Jim Carrey. He has a chipped front tooth, but removed the cap for the film Dumb and Dumber.
Hilary Duff sports a full set of veneers.
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini nee Tweedy previously Cole. Well, you’d have to have your teeth done after that mouthful wouldn’t you! She’s another one with a full set of veneers.
Catherine Zeta-Jones had a full set of veneers to lengthen her teeth.
Michael Douglas. Probably the least said about him the better.
Courtney Love has a nice set of veneers.
Mike Tyson. After having his gold teeth knocked out by his pet tiger, he’s gone for a more traditional coloured replacement.
Clark Gable suffered from gum disease in his thirties and had a full set of dentures.
Celine Dion has certainly had work done; it looks as though she has a full set of veneers too.
©Susan Shirley 2015