The history of dentistry around the world can date back as far as Ancient Egypt, as archeologists and historians have found evidence of oral health problems and remedies, as well as examples of basic tooth restorations in Egyptian mummies. There are many different cultures around the world that reference elements of dentistry across their history, including Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, and Roman civilizations.

Some of the ancient dental techniques may cause you to cringe, but the development and progression of these techniques significantly contributed to the modern dentistry we know today.

The history of dentistry in Canada provides important insight into the development of the industry and why we have some of the best dental care in the world.

Oral Health and the Indigenous People of Canada

No discussion of Canadian history is complete without the examination of the Indigenous peoples of this country and the role that they have played in the development of the dental industry. Prior to contact with Europeans, the indigenous people experienced virtually no instances of diabetes or dental cavities due to their diet. Throughout indigenous history, there have been references to specialized healers who would use a wide variety of plants and techniques to heal any number of ailments or maladies. The First Nations people of Canada possess intimate knowledge and understanding of the healing qualities of many plants, which are also often used for ceremonial and spiritual purposes.

In more recent history, the Indigenous Dental Association of Canada was developed in 2022 and aims to bring together the Indigenous Dental Community and support the nation’s vision of reconciliation.

The Origins of Canadian Dentistry

The Ontario Dental Association was formed in 1867 and the Royal College of Dental Surgeons was established the following year. Over the course of the past 150 years or so, the dental industry has evolved from a practice that was based on empirical methods to one that is supported by both fundamental science and extensive clinical research.

Around the early 1900s in Canada, specialization in the dental industry began to develop. Such specializations as oral surgery, exodontia (extractions), periodontia, and orthodontia began to emerge. Other specialties emerged as the industry developed, and those that are recognized today include oral radiology, oral pathology, pediatric dentistry, endodontics, maxillofacial surgery, and prosthodontics.

The Formation of the Ontario College of Dental

In 1964, the Royal College of Dentists Canada was formed by federal statute as a way of promoting specific standards across the industry. These standards were set to regulate such things as specialization, qualifications, training and education programs, and general recognition and designation of specific specialties. The development of the RCDC was supported by the licensing boards of each province, as they are responsible for the licensing of dentists and the practice of dentistry within each province.

The Dental Hygienist

As the dental industry evolved and developed across Canada, a need for additional dental professionals arose in 1947. During this time, the Ontario laws of dentistry were altered to include what we now refer to as dental hygienists. Dental hygienists work in private dental clinics as well as a variety of public health programs, and more recently their responsibilities have been expanded in some provinces.

Dental Tools & Equipment

1871 – James B. Morrison designed and patented the first commercially available dental engine with a foot treadle. This relatively inexpensive, mechanical tool ensured that dental burs were operated with enough speed to effectively cut through enamel and dentin safely and quickly, which essentially revolutionized the practice of dentistry.

The 1880s – During this period of time, the collapsible metal tube was created which revolutionized toothpaste manufacturing. Up until that point, Dentifrice had been available only in liquid or powder form, was usually made by individual dentists, and was typically sold in glass bottles, porcelain pots, or cardboard boxes. The introduction of tube toothpaste, however, meant that it could be mass-produced in factories, mass-marketed, and sold in stores nationwide.

1938 – In this year, the first nylon toothbrush made with synthetic bristles made its way onto the market. Before this, toothbrush bristles were usually made out of natural fibers such as hog hair, which was coarse enough to do the job.

1950 – This year saw the first toothpaste containing fluoride be produced and mass-marketed across Canada.

1958 – In 1958, the first fully-reclining dental chair was introduced, which revolutionized the practice as well as the patient experience.

Dentistry Today

Today, Canadians benefit from some of the best dental care across the globe. With such perks as minimal wait times, high rates of annual dental visits, and approximately 60 dentists per every 100,000 Canadian residents. This means that Canada ranks above many other developed nations when it comes to quality and access to dental care.

Times certainly have changed since the early years of dentistry in Canada. These days, there are so many ways that dentists can make each appointment relatively pain and stress-free. As always, the best wait to maintain optimal oral health is by seeing your dentist regularly for a checkup and cleaning and brushing twice daily, and flossing once per day. Contact our Guelph dentist’s office today to schedule your next appointment or learn more about our patient experience!

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