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.