About jotaueleiaene

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Evolution of Dental Equipment

Apparently, there seems to be some evidence (which I wouldn’t find) somewhere that people already used dental instruments about 7000 years ago (around 5000BC) according to this blog.  Egyptians seem to have used some sort of dental drill back in the day and the Greek supposedly used something like mint flavored toothpaste, whatever it was made of.
It was the Romans who anticipated daily or regular oral hygiene, though. They also invented or build some of the first dentures made from bone and wires of gold.

Here‘s a Wikipedia article on dental drills. It has a short overview of the history of dental drills and a good photograph of an ancient foot-powered dental drill that looks similar to a spinning wheel.

Foot-powered Dental Drill

Foot-powered ancient Dental Drill, photograph by Royalbroil (available from Wikimedia Commons)

to be continued…

Discovery of Anaesthesia

The anaesthetic effect of different gases and potions has long been known but not until Horace Wells purposely made use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) in the year 1844 was anaesthesia common. Anaesthetics back then were commonly used as drugs rather than with any medical purpose. An interesting article by Henry Wood Erving tells the story of the discovery of anaesthesia by Dr. Horace Wells of Hartford from 1933. Wells actually claims to have found out about anaesthesic effects (rather than just drug abuse) of different substances, especially laughing gas, about two years before Dr. Jackson and Dr. Morton.
It was Wells who also began using laughing gas for dental surgery.
Another brief history of laughing gas can be found on a medical blog from Marian University, largely based on “The Not-So-Funny Tale Of Laughing Gas” by NPR.

As with most other scientifically relevant discoveries, the discovery of anaesthesia happened by accident. Although laughing gas was already well known for its effects on the human perception and consciousness, nobody before Horace Wells used it with anaesthetic purpose. It just happened to be Dr. Wells who witnessed an unusual sight at a show featuring laughing gas in the year 1844. He was sitting in the audience while watching someone use laughing gas. A young man got really drugged and excited and accidentally hurt his leg resulting in a bleeding wound he did not notice until sitting down next to Dr. Wells who then asked him about it. Thus, the discovery of the anaesthetic effect of laughing gas made. Wells then applied laughing gas to himself in an experiment at the time he had to have a tooth removed (he was a dentist himself but let someone else remove his tooth), proving the usefulness of nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic.

Some facts about nitrous oxide can be found here and here.
Nitrous oxide is a compound with the formula N_2 O, is colorless and non-flammable, with a slightly sweet smell, which is the reason why it is sometimes also known as sweet air, although laughing gas is the more common term for it.

To be continued…

Barbershop Legends

Barbers used to not only shave mens’ faces but also, in earlier days, performed surgery and dentistry, especially tooth pulling. Therefore, many barbers were called “Bloody” Barbers because of the bloody mess they made, some very unpleasant imagination if you think about it.

A sketch by Monty Python makes fun of the barber-surgeon profession and their
reputation as ‘bloody barbers’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7nJ9RW-F8M

Legend has it that the Barber’s Pole’s colors are red and white (and sometimes, in the United States at least, blue) resemble the dirty and clean, red and white, cloth that barbers used to hang out around the poles in front of their shops in order to dry after using and cleaning them. Unfortunately, there is no proper evidence for this that I was able to find so far, except for some vague formulations and assumptions made in the book “The Excruciating History of Dentistry” by James Wynbrandt. Following Wynbrandt, the poles were later painted red so that the gory sight would be minimized, with with bandages hanging around the poles. Fortunately, there’s a long article about the history of barber-surgeons by the BBC:

The most prominent (although fictional) barber-surgeon probably is “Sweeney Todd”. Although his tale does not say anything about being a surgeon, he ends up slitting people’s throats with surgical precision using specialized razors.

Apparently, the union of barbers with the semi-professions of surgeons and dentists has originated from a Papal Decree in the Middle Ages (around 1092 AD), because of a series of reasons. The most important reason being that clerical staff would not be allowed to perform any operations or anything involving blood shed in any form. The second-most important reason was the profession of the barber already involving sharp blades, rendering them perfect for the job as surgeons for minor operations, tooth extractions and blood-letting.

To be continued…

Here are some interesting links, though, that tell you more about barbers and surgery: