Evolution of Cosmetic Dentistry



For thousands of years, people have found ways to care for their teeth. As early as 3000 BC, people used sticks to clean their teeth. The first toothbrush was made in the 1400s and the first electric toothbrush was invented in 1961.

The first bristle toothbrush was made from animal hair in the late 1400s, but it wasn’t very sanitary. DuPont® fixed this problem with the first nylon toothbrush in 1938, and in 1961, the first electric toothbrush was developed.

The Egyptians were one of the first to use toothpaste, which comprised of pumice stone and vinegar. The Romans used toothpaste that contained urine, which is a natural tooth-whitening agent. This ammonia toothpaste was used through the 18th century.

What is Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry refers to any dental work that enhances or improves the appearance of a person’s teeth, gums or bite. It doesn’t necessarily involve restoring or improving the function of one’s teeth or bite. The common cosmetic dental procedures include:

  • Teeth whitening
  • Composite fillings and bonding
  • Dental veneers
  • Dental implants

Early Cosmetic Dentistry

The first dentures are said to have been used around 700 B.C. where the Etruscans made the dentures from bone and ivory. Most of these first dentures were made from the teeth of either dead animals or people or were extracted from live human donors. These dentures continued to be used through the 1800s.

The Etruscans first used gold in dental crowns and bridges in A.D. 200. The Egyptians hammered in sea shells into their gums as a form of teeth replacements.

In the 1100 and 1200s, barbers performed dental procedures including whitening, filing and even performing dental surgery. By the 1400s, however, their role as dentists disappeared. Europeans started using ivory and bone in dentures in the 1400s. In the 1700s, human teeth began to be used as dental implants. Metal inserts replaced the human teeth in dental implants in the 1800s.

There were great advancements and improvements in cosmetic dentistry in the 1700 and 1800s. The first porcelain dentures were created in 1770 and these dentures made their way to the United States in the early 1800s. During this time, dentists began using plaster to make molds of patients mouth to produce better fitting dentures. The first dental lab that produced false teeth was created in the 1850s.

Modern Era of Cosmetic Dentistry

In the 1950s, the traditional porcelain crowns of the 1900s were first fused with metal to make dental crowns more comfortable and durable. It was during the first half of the 1900s that dental labs began using acrylics and plastics for dentures. The quest for producing natural and comfortable smiles really picked up in the 1900s. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the term “cosmetic dentistry” was first used. During the late 1900s, bleaching, veneers, and implants, and crowns were developed and became standard cosmetic dentistry practices. Here is a brief history of the major cosmetic dentistry procedures:

Teeth Whitening – Whitening has been common since the 1800s, but the results weren’t consistent. Dentists began using hydrogen peroxide and a bleaching light in the 1900s. In 1989, two dentists, named Heyward and Heymann came up with the first at-home bleaching trays. Laser teeth whitening has been around since the 1960s where it was used primarily to treat gum disease. In the mid-1990s, the FDA cleared it to be used for teeth whitening.

Composite Dental Fillings & Dental Bonding – Fillings and bonding were greatly improved in the 1900s. The first tooth bonding system was created in 1949 that used acrylic resin to adhere to the teeth. The first tooth filling was created in 1955, with a much-improved updated composite filling in 1962. In the 1980s, a light system began to be used in composite fillings.

Dental Veneers — Dental veneers were invented in the 1930s by Charles Pincus as a temporary fix for movie stars. Veneers got a facelift in 1982 where dentists were able to permanently bond porcelain veneers onto teeth.

Dental Implants –The first screw dental implant was inserted in 1937. Titanium, with its compatibility with bone, was discovered in 1952. Not until 1965 did titanium become the standard metal in modern dental implants.

Cosmetic dentistry has come a long way since the invention of the toothbrush and toothpaste. All throughout history, people have been coming up with ways to clean, maintain and improve their teeth and gums. While cosmetic dentistry has only been coined as such for a short time, it has been happening for many centuries. Just as the first dental lab established in the early 1900s was all about patient comfort and improving their natural smile, Arrowhead Dental Laboratory strives to utilize new technology to continue to provide dentists with the best possible skills and service to patients. Contact us today and see how we can help you become the best dentist you can be and provide the highest quality service to your patients.