Did you know that a dentist invented the electric chair? In 1881, a prominent dentist named Alfred P. Southwick saw an intoxicated man touch a live generator terminal and subsequently died. He then concluded that electrocution was a more humane way of dealing with legal punishment. Alfred then tirelessly campaigned over the next ten years to promote laws to mandate electrocution in lieu of guillotine, hanging, or suffocation. And the first electrical execution law went into effect in January of 1889.
Dentists have been around for a very long time. The first records of modern dentistry date back to the ancient Egyptians. Scientists have found mummies that have had resin fillings in their teeth when cavities would form. If that’s not impressive enough for you, the Roman Empire had dentists that created gold crowns, would make custom bridges to fix gaps in teeth, and even created toothpaste for better hygiene. That’s a lot better than the folks in medieval Germany who would kiss donkeys to cure their toothaches.
It is only folklore that George Washington had wooden dentures. Did you know that throughout his life Washington employed numerous full and partial dentures that were made of human, cow, and horse teeth, along with ivory (from an elephant), lead-tin alloy, copper alloy, and silver alloy. George Washington was acutely aware of his failing dental health and tried to keep it secret. Whenever he had to have a tooth extracted, he kept it in a locked desk drawer at Mount Vernon. He kept his teeth there wrapped up, and then sent them to a dentist in Newburgh, New York who was making him some new dentures. He even bought human teeth from African Americans.
Many historians have proposed that George Washington’s constant dental issues greatly impacted his desire and ability to speak. He was self-conscious about his dentures, and considered them very troublesome when trying to speak. Of course, George Washington was our first president who inadvertently caused an advancement in dentistry in a particular way. One of George Washington’s dentists invented the “dental foot engine” by turning his mother’s spinning wheel into something that could rotate a drill fast enough to get through the first president’s mouth.
Then we have Paul Revere who was a silversmith during the Revolutionary war who later became a dentist. He also trained as a dentist under America’s first dentist, John Baker. The famous Doc Holiday was a dentist until he contracted Tuberculosis, which forced him to turn to gambling.
Surprisingly, most Americans did not pick up on the dental trend to brush their teeth until after World War II. The soldiers stationed abroad brought the concept of good dental health back to the states. The military required that soldiers brush their teeth twice a day to keep their teeth healthy. The soldiers brought that habit home after the war.
Now, most Americans not only focus on the health aspects of keeping their teeth clean, but many are just as concerned with the cosmetic appearance as well, and look for offices that can perform both functions such as Premier Smile Center.