The dentist’s office is often painted as somewhere to avoid at all costs by both children and adults alike. However, there’s really no reason to fear the dentist, especially with how much the field of dentistry has changed over the years.
Much of the unnecessary fear associated with the dentist’s office comes from its history. Dentists have an ancient past, with the practice referred to in documents as far back as 5000 BC in ancient Sumerian texts. While early dentists played an important role in the forward progression of dental science and overall health, their methods were not always safe or painless, especially before the use of anesthetics and other painkillers.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages when dentistry became a profession, surprisingly splitting off from the barber trade and quickly evolving through the 18th and 19th century towards what we know dentists to be today. However, it’s the 20th and now the 21st century that dentistry evolved more towards patient comfort, with the use of novocaine starting in 1905 and the greater use of new restorative materials and veneers in the 1990s and beyond.
The tools of dentistry also changed significantly over the years. While dental offices today have state of the art tools with detailed regulations for keeping them safe and hygienic, this wasn’t always the case. For example, the earliest dental drills were similar to the wood bow tools used to create fire, using friction and a flint head to drill through and fix teeth.
Today’s mouth props for keeping your mouth open during treatments are designed out of plastic or rubber for your comfort, a definite improvement over oral speculums used to force open the mouth in the 1600s. Chisels still play a role in dentistry today, but have shrunk dramatically in size and are used more for teeth cleaning than the large, crude chisels used for teeth extraction in the late 1700s.
Just like today’s dental tools have taken on a patient-centered focus for comfort and safety, the environment of dental offices continue to move in a similar direction. Today’s dental office often features patient amenities like TVs on the ceiling, iPads, WiFi, warm blankets, headphones for music, neck wraps and eye masks.
There are even dental offices that have taken the lobby experience to a whole new level, baking fresh bread and making freshly brewed coffee for patients as they wait, removing the typical smell of a sterile office. Children’s dentists continually strive to add toys, video games, and even therapy animals to help make their offices somewhere children will want to visit.
Just like the field of medicine, treatments have changed and evolved over centuries, especially within the last few decades. Early dentists were more focused on removing already infected teeth, while today dentists largely focus on prevention and cosmetic improvements. New filling materials, cleaning procedures, and teeth whitening processes help patient’s teeth stay brighter and healthier over longer periods of time.
Dentures have become less common both due to better treatments as well as new options like veneers and dental implants capable of supporting center bridges. This change in focus is making a healthy, bright, white smile more attainable than ever before.
Thanks to major improvements across the board in dentistry, there’s no longer a reason to dread your regular dental check-ups. Dentists today truly have a patient-centered focus from the time you walk in the lobby till the end of your procedure, and continuing advances in the field only ensure an increasingly positive experience in both adult and pediatric dental care moving forward.