During the nineteenth century, great craftsmen turned their attention to the production of dental furniture as manufacturers attempted to meet the needs of a growing population that was more able to afford dental care.
“His instruments of torture, called by courtesy dental tools, were many and varied. He was very skillful in his profession and when he took a job he did it in first-class style. The dental tools are simply copies in miniature of articles used in the Spanish inquisition and on refractory prisoners in the Tower of London. There are monkey wrenches, raspers, files, gouges, cleavers, pickes, squeezers, drills, daggers, little crowbars, punches, chisels, pincers, and long wire feelers with prehensile, palpitating tips, that can reach down through the roots of a throbbing tooth and fish up a yell from your inner consciousness. When a painstaking dentist cannot hurt you with the cold steel, he lights a small alcohol lamp and heats one of his little spades red hot, and hovers over you with an expectant smile. Then he deftly inserts this into your mouth and when you give a yell he says, ‘Does that hurt?’”
from the Chicago Herald
The demand for dentures dramatically increased in the mid nineteenth century after the discovery of anesthesia made relatively painless extractions possible.
The history of dentistry is easily revealed through the beautiful art that has recorded some of the major high points of this specialty.
For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently.
William Shakespeare (ca. 1500)
Physicians and healers of all sorts have always been interested in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the teeth and gums because of the ubiquitous and urgent nature of the problem. Dental disease has been found in human remains from as early as the Stone Age, and it was in the seventeenth century that skulls began to show a significant increase in the rate of dental caries as the importation of inexpensive sugar from the New World increased. Soon after that dentistry began to evolve into the profession that it is today.
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