Dentistry Through The Ages. — Dr Roy Stanley  — 16th March 2015

A fas­cin­at­ing talk by one of our mem­bers ably assisted by his wife Gill on whom Roy demon­strated blood-letting, scar­i­fy­ing and extrac­tions with a fear­some range of old instru­ments and bowls to col­lect the blood.  For those read­ers who are of a nervous dis­pos­i­tion and dis­like dent­ists, please be assured no harm was done to the patient  nor any blood spilled !

It was no sur­prise to learn that prob­lems with teeth and mouths go back into the realms of time and some form of dentistry was prac­tised.  Bodies from around 7000 BC were dis­covered having had cos­metic dental treat­ment no doubt to make them more present­able in the after life.  There was oral sur­gery in 2500 BC, tooth replace­ment and bridge work in 1500 BC and in 100 BC the Romans prac­tised oral hygiene and dental treat­ment. The first recog­nised dent­ist was Hosy-Re, an Egyptian scribe.

Barbers also gave their ser­vices as sur­geons and dent­ists, hence the red and white barber’s pole which rep­res­ents blood and band­ages.  The barber’s chair, cut throat razor and shaving/blood col­lec­tion bowls were useful dual pur­pose tools when sur­gery or dentistry was needed includ­ing blood let­ting, scar­i­fy­ing, lan­cing  and extrac­tions..  Monks had fin­gers in many pies and were also involved in dentistry but this was for­bid­den after the 12th cen­tury.   The world of extrac­tions, lan­cing and blood let­ting remained vir­tu­ally unchanged and unreg­u­lated until well into the 19th cen­tury.

The Royal College of Surgeons was estab­lished by Henry VIII and licences given to sur­geons in 1860 but it was not until 1879 that a register of dent­ists was set up. In 1901 the first degrees in dentistry were awar­ded.  It was not until 1921 that a Dentist Act was passed declar­ing only qual­i­fied dent­ists could prac­tise.  Again, very sur­pris­ingly, it was only after 1970 that you had to have a degree in dentistry in order to prac­tise. One gets the impres­sion that dentistry has had to fight long and hard to get the recog­ni­tion and repu­ta­tion it has as a noble pro­fes­sion today.

Roy gave a brief sum­mary of his own dental train­ing at Sheffield University but very inter­est­ingly explained the major dif­fer­ences in the train­ing and edu­ca­tion of today’s gradu­ates. A key dif­fer­ence is that after the 5 year degree course there is a fur­ther 2 years voca­tional train­ing under the super­vi­sion and guid­ance of a registered  dental sur­geon .   As Roy put it, 2 years of valu­able hands on exper­i­ence before they are let loose on the mouths of the gen­eral public.

Today’s gradu­ates,  major on pre­ven­tion, con­ser­va­tion and use of flu­or­ide to strengthen teeth.  Aesthetics have become more import­ant includ­ing, implants bleach­ing, crowns, ven­eers,  and bridges. Forensics and lit­ig­a­tion also play an increas­ing part of modern stud­ies.

The ques­tion and answer ses­sion showed how much the mem­bers enjoyed Roy’s present­a­tion.