The dictionary defines dentistry as the branch of medicine that studies, prevents and treats oral cavities. Nowadays, the dentist team is compromised of the dentist and more commonly the technicians, assistants, hygienists and therapists. Although dental issues like tooth decay have always been an issue of the past, this extensive dental team has not always existed and in fact dentistry and its procedures have developed a large amount over the last few centuries.
In the 18th century the technology was not developed to deal with even the most common tooth problems. This resulted in teeth often being extracted by barbers and blacksmiths. Subsequently poor procedures were being carried out, for example in order to extract a tooth, a string was commonly tied around the tooth so that it could be pulled out with force, often a drum was played in the background to distract the patient from what was about to happen. Developments progressed to include the tooth key which caused the decaying tooth to pop out of its socket. This technique was rather dangerous and because of the pressure applied to the tooth it often caused the tooth to shatter.
It comes as no surprise that with such back street procedures there was a need for Dentistry to become a licensed profession, which it achieved towards the end of the 19th century. This led to the professional organisation of dentistry including the introduction of anaesthetics. This progression in dental procedures was also accompanied by the creation of the American Dental Association which formed during the 19th century which was soon followed by the emergence of a dentistry degree.
Such dental developments then seemed to progress with speed, making the old methods of tooth extraction a distant procedure of the past. During the 20th century innovations really began to take off; dentist training programmes for dental nurses were enrolled, the first dental hygiene license was submitted, the nylon tooth brush and fluoride toothpaste were invented. It was during the 20th century that dentistry really emerged as a profession that worked to promoting dental hygiene focusing on the maintenance of teeth rather than just the removal of decaying teeth. These new practices and new technologies such as tooth bleaching, veneers, implants and the use of the electric tooth brush all allowed an extensive list of new dental treatments to be carried out to promote healthy, long lasting teeth.