The History of Cosmetic Dentistry

HomeCosmetic DentistryThe History of Cosmetic Dentistry

Today, there’s a treatment for virtually every cosmetic dental issue, from chips, gaps, or missing teeth altogether. These procedures have been carefully perfected over time, but not many people know how they came to be in the first place. Below, we’ll take a look at how some of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures developed over the years.

The First Cosmetic Dental Procedures

The earliest cosmetic dental procedures were recorded around 700 BC. Etruscans had recorded using ivory bone as dentures, but it wasn’t uncommon to use human teeth (from either dead or live donors!) or animal teeth as adequate tooth replacements. Other sources show that the Egyptians used seashells as tooth replacements!

About 900 years later, the Etruscans had moved on to using gold and other precious metals to function as makeshift crowns and bridges.

Early Modern Dentistry

Fast forward to the 1200s, dentistry was a practice that actually belonged to barbers. They would file teeth and coat them with acid to whiten them without knowing that this process would actually destroy them!

The next few hundred years didn’t bring much in terms of innovation—Europeans had experimented with human teeth, ivory, and metals to replace teeth, but couldn’t find a solution that was comfortable or viable.

hands holding a tooth replacement model

The Birth of Modern Dentistry

It wasn’t until the 1700s that modern dentistry truly took shape. It was during this time that the first dentures made from porcelain first appeared, created using accurate molds of patients’ teeth to ensure comfort and fit. This paved the way for the first porcelain veneers.

Porcelain remained the most popular material for tooth replacements until the 1950s, when plastic and acrylic also entered the market.

Modern Day Cosmetic Dentistry

  • Whitening & Bleaching: Although using hydrogen peroxide and bleaching lights have been used to whiten teeth since the 1900s, it wasn’t until 1989 when carbamide peroxide became a preferred whitening agent, thus paving the way for at-home whitening kits. Laser dentistry was invented in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the first dental laser was approved by the FDA and thus made laser bleaching a common practice.
  • Veneers: Dental veneers had their start in the 1930s as a preferred way to maintain Hollywood smiles, and they became popular in the 1980s after dentists discovered a way to permanently bond veneers to teeth.
  • Implants: The first screw implant was created in 1937, but it wasn’t until 1952 that titanium (which can fuse to bone) was used in dental implants. Doctors continued to refine the dental implant process throughout the 1960s-1980s, making dental implants a very popular tooth replacement procedure today.

We’ve come a long way from seashells, animal teeth, and acid as ways to improve the function and look of our teeth! We offer the most state-of-the-art cosmetic dentistry treatments here at Edgewater Dental Arts, including porcelain veneers, whitening, and Invisalign®. If you’re looking to make improvements to your smile, contact us to schedule an appointment today!

Dr. John Cutting

Written by

John Cutting, DMD is an Annapolis dentist experienced in all aspects of dentistry. He provides complete care from general dentistry to cosmetic and restorative dentistry in his conveniently located and comfortable office, Edgewater Dental Arts.