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Dental History Pictures
©Everett Collection/

As much as people don’t like the dentist nowadays, things used to be a lot worse!  Take a look at the pictures below to see how far dentistry has come in the past few centuries.

16 Dental History Pictures That Will Make You Love Your Dentist

A Jolly Man with a “Fixed” Missing Tooth

Dr. Shiffman Fixed My Teeth - Dental History

It’s hard to imagine living in an era where people consider their teeth fixed when they are missing.

Teething Trouble?  Give the Kid Some Cocaine & Alcohol

Cocaine Teething and Toothache Drops - Dental History

Many years ago, it was common to give a teething baby all sorts of concoctions to get them to calm down.  My favorite have to be these cocaine drops, followed by Mrs. Winslow’s teething syrup, which would now be illegal for those under 21 years of age!

Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup for Teething Children - Dental History

“Gather ’round, children.  Let’s look at the Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup advertisement again!”

Don’t want to get your baby drunk?  Here’s some natural teething remedies you can try.

Would You Like Your Wisdom Teeth Extracted?

Martyrdom of St. Apollonia - Dental History

This illustration, The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia, shows the torturous extraction of teeth.  I’m glad that this isn’t how my wisdom teeth were removed!

German Traveling Dentist

German Charlatan Dentist - Dental History

In the picture above, a German dental quack, who looks strangely like Captain Hook,  is holding a large tooth that he supposedly extracted from the little midget next to him.  If you look closely, you will see a necklace of extracted teeth hanging over the edge of the table.

His cute little assistant is mixing up a variety of powders and potions that this dentist claims will cure complications from kidney stones and pregnancy.

Traveling French Dentist & His Monkey

French Quack Dentist with Monkey - Dental History

This French dentist proudly displays a tooth that he recently extracted from the gentleman on the right and it would appear he suffered a great deal.

Perhaps as a marketing gimmick, this dentist has a monkey that imitates his every move!

Although your dentist probably wouldn’t extract a tooth without gloves, you should still evaluate your dentist’s infection control program.

18th Century Persian Dentist Tooth Extraction

Persian Dentist Extracting Tooth - Dental History

Here’s an 18th century Persian dentist engaging in the fine art of a gentle tooth extraction.  The gentleness reflects the subtitle of this picture, which was taken from a passage found in the Quran about the need to be kind to your fellow men.

Traveling Dentist in a Dutch Village

Traveling Dentist in Dutch Village - Dental History

I still can’t get over the fact that people used to gather and watch tooth extractions for entertainment.

A Surprifing Toothache Cure

A Surprifing Toothache Cure - Dental History

If this guy had lived in our day, I am willing to bet he’d be all over the TV on infomercials and all over the internet with affiliate websites peddling his “fmall letter” that would cure a toothache.  I can almost hear his voice pronouncing the letter s like the letter f.

A sufferer comes to him saying, “I come to you to get Relief for a moft violent Tooth-Ache.”  The swindler then responds, “My Letter, that fmells fo very pleafant, when delivered is your Relief.”

Interestingly, there are still people like him on the internet that push dangerous, risky, and unproven treatments for toothaches and gum disease.

Backbreaking Work for this Dental Assistant

Russian Dentist - Dental History

I guess they don’t make dental assistants like they used to!  I feel bad for all three, but probably the dentist the most for his poor fashion sense.  I promise, you’ll never sit in my dental chair and see me wearing pants like that!

An Athletic Italian Dentist

Italian Athletic Dentist Pulling Tooth - Dental History

I can’t believe that in 3 ½ years of dental school, my tuition still hasn’t covered a class covering athletic dental extractions.  Hopefully it’s coming up soon.

The next patient appears to be drinking some extra alcohol in anticipation of her extraction.

Curing a Toothache with Fire

Using Fire to Cure a Toothache - Dental History

A suffering patient bends over this brazier fueled by burning seeds.  The fumes from henbane seeds were believed to drive the worm out of the aching tooth.

Yeah, people used to believe that toothaches were caused by worms that burrowed into the tooth and caused pain.  Even if there were worms, it’s more likely that the henbane would’ve killed the person before it killed the worms, since it is now known to be a very toxic plant.

The Japanese Tooth Extraction: Kneeling Method

Japanese Dentist Kneeling to Extract Tooth - Dental History

I’m betting that she is handling the extractions so well because she knows that she’s got not two, but three black, wooden dentures ready for her when she’s done.

Arabic Dentist Cauterizing Dental Pulp With Acid

Arabic Dentist Cauterizing Dental Pulp - Dental History

Here’s an Arabic dentist injecting acid into the dental pulp of a patient.  He uses a protective syringe to keep the acid from burning his hands.

Not sure what dental pulp is?  It’s the nerve of the tooth – Learn more about the anatomy of a tooth.

The Tooth Drawer

Tooth Drawer - Dental History

This is the picture I featured in my article on tooth drawers not too long ago.  This elegantly dressed dentist advertises himself as the dentist to the Great Mogul.  He wanted everyone to know that even royalty subjected themselves to his charming, yet awful dental skills.

The Italian “Oral Surgeon” That Effortlessly Removes Jawbones

Italian Dentist Extracting Jaw - Dental History

I don’t know how people believed this one.  This Italian “oral surgeon” has just pretended to extract an animal’s jaw from his actor-patient.  The crowd stares in amazement, the way the surgeon looks at us through the picture easily tells us that he’s living a lie.

The main theme in a lot of these pictures is having a crowd admire the dentist’s work.  Now that we have YouTube, people have turned away from the dental office when they seek entertainment.


Hopefully these pictures from the history of dentistry will allow you to gain a greater appreciation for your current dentist.  There’s a lot to be grateful for when you think about dentists of today:

  • We don’t stand on you or tie you down to pull your teeth.
  • We don’t travel from town to town with deceitful publicity stunts.
  • We don’t prescribe medications that could cause serious harm to you or your children.
  • We use local anesthetic so you don’t feel the pain of dental work.
  • We don’t try to sell you questionable cures for your problems and base our treatment on scientific evidence.  Well, most of us do!
  • We don’t hold your head over a burning pot of flames to cure your toothache.
  • We can fix teeth, rather than simply extracting them.
  • We wear gloves and use sterile dental equipment.
  • Questions, comments, or concerns?  Please leave a comment in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

Dental Patient Rights
©Candybox Images/

I got an email yesterday from a reader named Harris, who stated, “I paid $5000 to replace a broken crown. The dentist did not tell me what the cost would be until he had already started the procedure.”

Harris wanted to know what kind of rights he had as a dental patient when you’re not told the cost of dental treatment in advance.  I told Harris that it is generally accepted that a dental patient has a right to know an estimate of the cost of a procedure before treatment begins.

I’ve received many other questions about dental patient rights in the past, and I thought that it would be a good time to discuss the rights of a dental patient. I have listed below what I believe to be 20 core rights that every dental patient deserves, and I’ll probably use something similar to this as the patient bill of rights in my future dental practice.

Dental Patient Rights

Dental Patient RightsKeep in mind that these are not legally-binding rights, although they are good recommendations for a dentist to establish a positive, successful relationship with his or her patients.

I have provided links to many other dental patient bill of rights at the end of the article if you want to take a deeper look into the world of dental patient rights.

The Right to Choose Your Dentist

You have a right to choose your own dentist.  Many dentists have different philosophies regarding the best treatment and you have the right to choose the dentist with whom you feel most comfortable.

The Right to Quality Dental Treatment

You have a right to receive treatment that meets or exceeds the accepted dental standard of care.

The Right to Know the Education and Training of the Dental Team

You have a right to know about the education and qualifications of the entire dental team, including the dentist, dental hygienist, assistants, and staff.  Many dental practices that believe in lots of continuing education post this information on their practice website.

Most states require that a dentist complete 15-25 continuing education “credits” every year.  You can ask your dentist how many he or she has taken.  Some dentists get by on the minimum, and other dentists take more courses than required.

The Right to a Clean Treatment Environment

The dental team should be using appropriate infection-control and sterilization techniques.

Learn how to tell if your dentist has a good infection control program.

The Right to Confidential Treatment

You have the right to expect that no member of the dental team will discuss your treatment with anyone else unless you authorize it.  This is a right granted under the HIPAA privacy rule.

The Right to Know the Cost of Treatment

You have the right to know how much treatment will cost before treatment begins.  Sometimes we don’t know what we’ll find before we start working on a patient, so it can be difficult to give an exact fee.

If this is the case, the dentist should be able to provide you with an estimate of the fee based on the various outcomes and treatment options.

Curious about dental fees?  Find the average dental fee in your area.

The Right to Know Why You Need Treatment

You have the right to know why treatment is necessary for your particular condition.

The Right to Know Treatment Risks

You have the right to know what risks are associated with treatment as well as the risks of not proceeding with treatment.

The Right to Know Treatment Alternatives

There’s more than one way to skin a cat — You have a right to know what other treatments are available that would also solve your dental problem as well as knowing how long the various treatment alternatives will last.

The Right to Decline Treatment

You have the right to decline treatment if you so desire.  You also have a right to know what may occur if you choose not to accept the treatment that your dentist proposes.

The Right to Know Expected Treatment Results

You have the right to know what the expected outcome of your treatment will be.

The Right to Emergency Dental Treatment

You have the right to receive emergency treatment from your dentist within a reasonable time-frame.  Many dentists set aside a certain amount of time each day to see emergencies.

The Right to Be Treated Respectfully

The dental team should treat you respectfully and considerately.

The Right to Not Be Discriminated Against

You have the right to not be discriminated against.  You should receive quality treatment no matter your ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, or age.

The Right to See the Dentist at Every Visit

You have a right to see the dentist every time you receive dental treatment.  Different states have varying laws regarding this, and thus you can clarify this with your dental office if you wish to see the dentist at every visit.

The Right to Know How to Resolve Disputes

You have the right to know what actions you can take to resolve any disputes that might arise between you and your dentist.  There are many ways to resolve disputes with your dentist.

Dental peer review is one of these means — here’s what it takes to win a lawsuit against your dentist.

The Right to Timely Dental Treatment

If a dentist accepts you as a patient, you have a right to expect that you can make appointments in a timely manner and not have to wait many months before receiving treatment.

Keep in mind that sometimes this is beyond the dentist’s control.  For example, if you require IV sedation or anesthesia in a hospital setting, it may take a long time to schedule your appointment so that you can have all of the health professionals available to provide you with safe, effective treatment.

The Right to a Conversation With Your Dental Team Regarding Your Treatment

You have a right to receive answers to any questions that you may have regarding your current oral health status and your proposed treatment.

You also have the right to discuss any concerns you may have regarding the proposed treatment.

The Right to Your Dental Records

You have the right to have your dental records and x-rays transferred to another dentist of your choice either for free or for a nominal fee.

Learn more about how to get a copy of your dental records.

The Right to Reasonable Accommodations for Your Disability

If you have a disability, you have a right to expect your dentist to make reasonable accommodations.  For example, I have treated patients in their wheel chair when they are unable to move themselves into our clinical dental chairs.

Dental Patient Rights Available Online

There are a number of dental patient bill of rights available online.  My dental school and the ADA have made copies of their dental patient bill of rights available on the internet.  Here’s a few:

It’s interesting to note how Boston University’s dental patient rights differs from the other schools’ since they are a private university and appear to be more selective at accepting patients.

Questions About Dental Patient Rights?

Do you have any questions regarding your rights as a dental patient?  Leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading!

Dental Specialties

When you go to your family dentist, chances are that you are visiting a general dentist.  This is a dentist that has completed four years of postgraduate dental school and has received the dental degree of DMD or DDS.  Upon graduation, I am planning to practice general dentistry.

An Old Dental Surgeon SignSome dentists choose to obtain two to six more years of education by entering a dental specialty.

While general dentists do have a wide array of knowledge in all areas of clinical dentistry, specialists are focused on one specific niche inside of dentistry and often have more knowledge than general dentists in that specific area.

Thus, when a general dentist encounters a patient with a problem that is beyond his or her skill level to treat, the general dentist will refer their patient to a dental specialist.

Dentists DMD and DDS Degrees

Have you ever noticed how some dentists have the abbreviation DMD after their name and some have DDS as their suffix? You’re not alone. I too had this question, and wanted to find out why there are two different degrees for dentists. Here’s the answer:

Dentist DDS DMDWay back in 1840 the world’s first dental school was established in Maryland.  It was called the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (which has since merged with the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.)  The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery admitted students eager to become dental professionals.  Upon graduation, they were awarded the DDS degree, which stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery.

Things were great in the mid-1800’s.  Those who were dentists had the suffix “DDS” hooked on to the end of their name.

Then, 27 years later, Harvard University decided to create a dental school.

It was the first dental school to be affiliated with a major university.  Since Harvard likes to be unique, and only grant degrees in Latin, they mulled over calling their degree “Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris,” or CDD.  In case you weren’t aware, that means Doctor of Dental Surgery in Latin.

Evidently, Harvard officials didn’t think that “Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris” had quite the ring that they were going for, so they consulted a latin scholar who suggested that they tack the word Dentariae onto their Medicinae Doctorae degree for doctors.  They came up with “Dentariae Medicinae Doctorae”, which means Doctor of Dental Medicine.  They abbreviated this DMD.

The Growth DMD Degree Awards

In 1900, only Harvard and the University of Oregon used the DMD degree.

In 1989, 23 of the 66 dental schools in the United States awarded the DMD degree.

Today, there are 58 dental schools in the United States.  According to the ADEA’s Official Guide to Dental Schools, 24 of the 58 award DMD degrees while 34 of them award DDS degrees.

After looking at the statistics in the Official Guide to Dental Schools, I looked at the class size of each school.  I used 50 as an estimate for Western University College of Dental Medicine, since they will be opening in the fall and I can’t find their “ideal class size” listed on their website.

So here’s the numerical breakdown of the population of first year dental students that will be attending DDS vs. DMD dental schools:

Number of DMD First Year Students: 1844
Number of DDS First Year Students: 3005

As you can see, DDS dentists on average, outnumber DMD dentists 3 to 2.

In Canada, there are ten dental schools.  Six award DMD degrees and four award DDS degrees.

Are DMD and DDS Dentists Different?

A dentist with DMD after their name and one with DDS after their name can perform the exact same procedures.  There is no difference or special privilege that one degree holds over the other.  In fact, both degrees have to use the same curriculum requirements that are designated by the American Dental Association.

The various dental schools are given the choice as to which degree they would like to award their graduates.

The DMD vs. DDS Controversy

Many people in the general public are confused by the two degrees that dentists have.  In some parts of the country, people may only recognize one of the suffixes as being a dentist.

There have been calls to the ADA to get rid of both degrees and create a new “streamlined” degree that everyone will recognize as a dentist.  However, there seems to be too much pride in one’s degree to completely get rid of them.  There is also a rich history in both degrees.

Those advocates of DDS say that dentists perform surgery daily by removing tooth structure, extracting teeth, performing gum surgery, etc.  Advocates of the DMD degree say that dentists are truly doctors of dental medicine and need to consider the scope of the whole body when planning a treatment for a patient.

It seems that for the time being, there will continue to be two different degrees that permit dental professionals to perform the exact same work.

Dental Schools Debate Which Degree to Offer

Even dental schools have been confused about which degree is best to offer.  One example is the Washington University School of Dental Medicine, which was started in 1866 and closed its doors in 1991.  They offered both DMD and DDS degrees to different graduating classes:

  • 1866 – 1891: Awarded DDS Degree
  • 1892 – 1900: Awarded DMD Degree
  • 1901 – 1972: Awarded DDS Degree
  • 1973 – 1991: Awarded DMD Degree

You can read about those changes and a history of the now-defunct school here.


I am currently enrolled in a University that grants DMD degrees.  In just over two years, I’ll have the DMD suffix on the end of my name.  When I was a kid, I always recognized dentists as the people with DDS on the end of their name.  Since DDS is still more common, perhaps that’s how most people recognize dentists.

Have you ever been confused by this?  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!