5 Dental Innovations We All Take For Granted

Dentistry has evolved from a trade into a regulated profession over the last 150 years. There are many inventions and advancements which have contributed to the development of the field. It was once something only the upper classes of Western society could afford, but now it’s effect has transformed the daily lives of millions of people worldwide.


1. Anaesthesia – 1846


In 2013, 276 million cases of tooth pain, as a result of dental caries, were reported worldwide. Dental pain is one of the most common types of pain, so it’s no wonder that the American dentist, Dr Thomas Green Morton, used ether as a general anaesthesia for tooth extractions. Morton’s success translated into the use of anaesthesia in the whole of medicine and the development of every type of modern medical anaesthesia we use today.


2. Toothpaste – 1890s

The use of fluoridated toothpaste has hugely changed the way people clean their mouth, forever. But did you know that toothpaste was so in demand in the UK after World War II, that on September 22nd 1955, the UK’s first ever television advertisement aired at 20:12…. And it was an advert for toothpaste!

The advert lasted for one minute and TV Presenter Alex Macintosh explains the benefits of toothpaste, saying the sensation of toothpaste is a “tingle of health”.


3. ‎Water Fluoridation – 1951


Over decades in the early 1900s the American dentists Dr Frederick McKay & Dr Greene Vardiman Black established that the mottled enamel found in Colorado school children was caused by high levels of Fluoride in the water supply.

In 1925 the UK dentist Dr Norman Ainsworth discovered a statistical association between the mottling of enamel and a lower caries risk. This started one of the largest public health initiatives of the 20th Century. After it was proven that water fluoridation is effective in preventing dental caries, in 1951 water fluoridation became an official US Public Health Policy. By 1960, 50 million people were receiving fluoridated water in the US.


4. The Toothbrush – 1780


William Addis is thought to have been the first person to mass produce toothbrushes in England. He was jailed for causing a riot in 1770 and was given a rag with soot & salt to clean his teeth. Finding this displeasing, he saved a bone from a meal, drilled holes in it and glued tufts of bristles to the holes. After leaving jail Addis became rich due to his invention. The company Wisdom Toothbrushes is the descendent of the company founded by Addis over 200 years ago!

The toothbrush could (arguably) be the best invention ever, ranking first as the invention American adults could not live without. (Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, 2003)


5. Personal Protective Equipment Laws – 1974


It was only after the Health & Safety Work Act of 1974 that wearing Personal Protective Equipment was first legally addressed in the UK, and in laws put into place in 1992 meant it was enshrined in legislation. Previously, dentistry was commonly practiced without gloves! Ansell developed the first disposable medical gloves in 1965 and by the mid-1990s the Nitrile gloves dentists commonly use today arrived on the market.