Dentistry, in some fashion, is a very old profession. People were drilling teeth and filling cavities in prehistoric periods (though not necessarily at the same time), and the Egyptians even had a name for dentist, irw ibh, and even a name for a master dentist, wr irw ibh. But for most of history dentistry was an unprofessional affair.
People became dentists simply because they had a pair of pliers and were good at yanking teeth. They were very unprofessional, and the word “charlatan” even comes from a particular kind of “dentist” that practiced in France in the 18th century, performing tricks to distract people while their teeth were being pulled. Even the early dental operators who marketed Waterloo teeth were poorly trained and you never knew their level of expertise. But, according to dentists in the UK, the man who changed all that was born in 1815.
Diverse Training and Rigorous Science
Sir John Tomes was born in Gloucestershire, England, and at the age of 16 he began an apprenticeship with a local apothecary, similar to a pharmacist. After this, he went to two hospitals where he trained as a medical doctor. He was granted a license to become a doctor, but he had become so interested in examining teeth and their diseases that he decided to become a dentist instead.
In 1845, Sir Tomes gave a series of lectures on the structure of teeth, oral diseases, and the available treatments that came to be seen as the standard textbook for several decades of dental students.
In 1856, Sir Tomes and a number of other prominent dentists founded the Odontological Society of London, which quickly decided that they had to establish a strict course of study to train dentists so that the profession would be able to properly serve patients and would grow in respect as a branch of medicine.
Parallel Events in the US
Although Sir Tomes is heralded as the father of professional dentistry in Britain, in the US dentistry was well on the way to being a profession by the time Tomes began his work. The first dental school had opened in 1828, and the first DDS degree was offered in 1840, though the American Dental Association wasn’t founded until 1859, and professional requirements for dentists would trickle in as individual state associations were formed and recognized by their state legislatures.
We may not look to Sir Tomes as the father of professional dentistry in the US and we may not have a parallel figure of our own, but we also trace the origins of professional dentistry back about 200 years, and we all of us are happy to live in the age of true dentists rather than “charlatans.”
If you are looking for a Philadelphia dentist who upholds the high standards of his profession, please call (610) 272-0828 for an appointment with Dr. Ken Siegel at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell.