Famous dentists of the 20th and 21st Centuries

December 15, 2017

Apart from Wild West gunslinger John Henry “Doc” Holliday, there aren’t many famous names in dentistry. Most of us don’t know the names of the men and women whose innovations have helped millions of people around the globe to maintain healthy smiles free from dental disease.

The past century has seen significant advances in techniques, technology and education that have transformed dentistry and made treatments more efficient, safer and more comfortable for patients. Here are just a few of the pioneers we have to thank.

Charles Land: porcelain crowns

American dentist Charles Henry Land patented the first all-ceramic crown in 1889, as a more aesthetically-pleasing option than the gold crowns in use at the time. Unfortunately, these crowns were not especially strong and had a tendency to crack, which earned Land the ridicule of his peers. They were still widely used until the 1960s, when the design was improved and modern porcelain jacket crowns began to take shape.

Walter König and Otto Walkoff: dental x-rays

X-rays were discovered by German mechanical engineer Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895, and it wasn’t long after that Frankfurt-based physicist Walter König took the first x-rays of teeth. Otto Walkoff next took the first intra-oral dental radiographs offering a detailed look at a friend’s teeth, using a glass photographic plate inside black paper. However, the practical application of x-rays would have to wait until a suitable film medium was developed in 1905.

Greene Vardiman Black: educator

As well as achieving a number of clinical breakthroughs, including new techniques for fillings, G.V. Black was most widely praised for revolutionising dental education with his two-volume Operative Dentistry. Some of Black’s concepts, such as the classification of caries lesions, are still in use today with only minimal modification.

Alvin Strock and Per-Ingvar Brånemark: dental implants

In 1937, Dr Alvin Strock of Harvard University placed the first successful implants in place of missing tooth roots. Previous attempts had been made using gold, platinum and other metals with limited success, and it was the development of biocompatible vitallium by Charles Venable that made the first practical dental implants possible. The first modern titanium implants were placed by Per-Ingvar Brånemark in 1951.

Frederick McKay and H. Trendley Dean: water fluoridation

Today, many municipal water supplies around the world have a safe level of fluoride added to help protect the local population’s teeth against decay. The effect of fluoride on teeth was discovered by accident in the early 20th century, when Colorado dentist Frederick McKay determined that the brown stains on many of his patients’ teeth were caused by excess levels in the drinking water, which also had the effect of making teeth more resistant to dental caries. Henry Trendley Dean continued McKay’s research and identified a safe level of fluoride in the 1940s.

Sir John Patrick Walsh: dental drill

The first modern, high-speed dental drill was developed by New Zealand dentist Dr John Patrick Walsh in 1949. This high-speed drill, powered by an air turbine, was the basis for the first commercial dental drills produced by Dr John Borden’s DENTSPLY Company from 1957.

Michael Buonocore and E.I. Cueto: sealants

Dr Michael Buonocore began an entirely new branch of dentistry in 1955 when he published a paper on the acid etching of tooth enamel, the process that helps bonding agents to adhere to teeth surfaces. He and E. I. Cueto then introduced the first dental sealant in 1966, using methyl cyanoacrylate. This was later found to be vulnerable to bacteria however, and modern sealants use different materials.

Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth: Invisalign®

The Invisalign® system was introduced in 1997 by Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth, founders of Align Technology. These transparent plastic aligners offer an alternative to traditional braces for older teenagers and adults who prefer a more discreet orthodontic treatment. Invisalign® is now offered by dentists and orthodontists around the world, and has treated more than four million patients.

Carl E. Misch: dental implantology

Dr Carl Misch, who died in January this year, was one of the most influential figures in the field of implant dentistry in the 20th and 21st centuries. He founded the Misch International Implant Institute (MIII) in 1984, a hands-on one-year course which is still the world’s leading implant education forum. Dr Misch personally trained more than 4,500 dentists and oral surgeons, and his book Contemporary Implant Dentistry is one of the most popular works in dentistry.

Do you need to see a dentist in Melbourne?

If it’s time for your regular check-up, or you need to speak to a dentist about any issue concerning your oral health or your smile, get in touch with our team at All Day EveryDay Dental.

Call us on (03) 9853 1811 to speak to our dentists in Brunswick and Kew or contact us online.

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