Saskatoon Dental Group is a locally owned, full-scale Saskatoon dental clinic offering general dentistry services. At Saskatoon Dental Group, we are dedicated to offering excellent care to our amazing patients who are like family to us. We are grateful to treat whole families in Saskatoon across multiple generations, and have a multicultural team speaking multiple languages. In our latest dental tip we share notable highlights in the history of dentistry.

A Brief Summary Of The History Of Dentistry

Did you know dentistry is one of the oldest medical professions? The Indus Valley civilization yielded evidence of dentistry being practiced as early as 7000 B.C. Much like other medical professions, the history of dentistry is complex. Here we summarize a few notable highlights in the history of dentistry.

The Tooth Worm

The first recorded description related to dentistry was in ancient Sumerian text around the year 5000 B.C. This ancient text indicates a theory that “tooth worms” are the cause of tooth decay. The “tooth worm” was said to infect the teeth and eat holes through them, causing cavities. The fact that cavities mimic the holes worms dig, makes the “tooth worm” a reasonable theory based on the knowledge at that time. 

Evidence of the theory of the “tooth worm” can be found across cultures including ancient India, Egypt, Japan, and China. The theory was widely accepted for quite some time. In fact, it was not until the 1700’s that it was proven false.

The Mayans

The Mayans were the first cosmetic dentists. They were considered masters, and used precious gems and stones to decorate teeth. The Mayans placed gems in holes they carved and chipped in the enamel of the teeth, using plant sap, and crushed bones to hold the gems in place. 

Today, we take a different approach to cosmetic dentistry than the Mayans. We focus on straighter, whiter teeth, rather than decorative stones.

The Barber Surgeon

From ancient times up until the middles ages, dental procedures were performed by a barber. In medieval Europe, the “barber surgeon” performed most surgical procedures including dental surgery. The “barber surgeon” performed the surgeries rather than doctors because they had the sharp metal tools necessary to do the job. 

Modern Dentistry

French Physician Pierre Fauchard is the father of modern dentistry. His book The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth, was published in 1723. This publication was the first defined comprehensive system of caring for teeth. In his publication, Fauchard introduced the concept of dental fillings and dental prosthetics, as well as identified acids from sugar as the cause of tooth decay. These concepts were groundbreaking, and critical to the birth of dentistry. 

In 1840, the first regulated dental institution was born. The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery opened with the vision of more regulation and oversight in the field of dentistry. A year later, the first dental practice act in the world was enacted in the State of Alabama. About twenty years later, the American Dental Association (ADA) came to fruition. Finally, in 1867, the Harvard University Dental School was founded and became the first university-affiliated dental institution. 

A few years later, in the 1870’s, the first mass-produced toothpaste and toothbrushes came from Colgate. This venture was obviously successful for the little soap, starch and candle company as the brand still exists today. 

Much like other medical professions, the history of dentistry is critical to it’s future. Without these early explorations, the modern quality dental care we know today would not be possible. 

Remember that good oral health habits start at home and we encourage you to visit us once a year for a full checkup and examination. Oral health is closely tied to your overall health and wellness and often we can identify issues before they become problems.

We are always welcoming patients looking for a new dental family. If you would like to book a checkup or if you have any dental questions please do not hesitate to reach out to our team.

See you soon!

The Saskatoon Dental Group Team


modern dental room with chair and dental equipment