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If you are asked to contemplate the topic of caring for your teeth, your first response might be a yawn. But when you realize how far modern dentistry has come, you might want to close your mouth and reshape it into a smile instead. Consider the ways in which some components of tooth care, such as dental equipment and toothbrushes, have changed from ancient times to today’s world.

The Dental Drill

John Greenwood, who provided George Washington with dental services, became the first to construct a “dental foot engine”. In order to rotate the drill, he borrowed a foot treadle spinning wheel from his mother and adapted it. Then, with James B. Morrison’s patenting of the first commercially manufactured “foot-treadle dental engine” came the ability to smoothly and quickly cut through enamel and the dentin below. This was soon followed by a patent, given to George F. Green, for the first “electric dental engine”. Finally, thanks to John Borden, modern high-speed dentistry became a possibility with the introduction of a new type of drill that was given the friendlier-sounding designation of “dental handpiece”. This high-speed device has been enhanced over time and can now be maintained via services such as high speed dental handpiece cartridge replacement.

The Toothbrush

Our ancient ancestors used thin twigs to perform teeth cleaning. Food that had become lodged between the teeth was removed by a “chew stick” that functioned as a rudimentary toothbrush. As civilizations changed and evolved, so too did their toothbrushes. Handles for toothbrushes were made from wood, bone, or ivory, and bristles were constructed from the hair of animals such as boars or hogs. Nylon was later used to make the bristles, and nylon-bristled toothbrushes are still in use today. Toothbrushes can now be chosen based on type, manual or electric, and bristle strength.

Our understanding of tooth decay has changed as well. Dental decay was recognized, and speculated about, as early as 5,000 BCE. According to a Sumerian text, the cause of this dental decay was thought to be “tooth worms”. Fortunately, upon revision, this belief has been brushed away.