The List: a Timeline of Dental Technology

Dental Products ReportDental Products Report July 2022
Volume 56
Issue 7

A timeline of dental technology throughout the ages.

The List: a Timeline of Dental Technology. Photo courtesy of DBVIRAGO; BRUNOWELTMANN / STOCK.ADOBE.COM.

The List: a Timeline of Dental Technology. Photo courtesy of DBVIRAGO; BRUNOWELTMANN / STOCK.ADOBE.COM.

Dental technology has made great strides over the years. As times goes by and technology changes, we can benefit by looking back on how far we’ve come in the dental industry. From braces to artificial intelligence, dental technology has made many advancements over the past 200 years.

1819 - Braces

Invented by French dentist Christophe-Francois Delabarre, this rudimentary form of modern braces set the groundwork for what is arguably the most important orthodontic innovation.1 Delabarre’s invention was a woven crib of wire fitted over the upper and lower rows of teeth. These early braces would adjust the teeth over time.

1830 - Amalgam

Although the dental amalgam was first used in China in 600 AD, it wasn’t refined and popularized until 1830. Early amalgam consisted of metals like mercury and zinc that were not esthetic but were easily manipulated and relatively inexpensive.2 Now we have materials that are safer, more esthetic, and more biocompatible.

1901 - Fluoride

Fluoride has been under a critical microscope for a long time after Dr Frederick McKay noticed many of his patients in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had unpleasant stains on their teeth. This observation inspired studies and research that ultimately determined fluoride could prevent caries. Eventually in the 1940s and 1950s, fluoride was added to water supplies around the United States.3

1950s - Dental Drills

Vital tools in any practice, dental drills have been through a variety of changes. They remove decay and make way for cleaner, healthier teeth. Built on mechanical innovations over the course of 6500 years, a powerful, commercialized dental drill was introduced by Dr John Borden in the 1950s.4

1965 - Dental Implants

Although the first dental implants made of shells were seen in the Mayan civilization in Central America, it wasn’t until 1965 that Dr Per-Ingvar Brånemark created a successful implant system closer to what we do today.5 Today, others have built upon Dr Brånemark’s achievements to create implants that achieve osseointegration.

1990s - Digital Dentistry

Digital dentistry refers to the digital refinement of the dental workflow. Digital dentistry comprises cone beam computed tomography, CAD/CAM milling, digital imaging, and digital x-ray services.6 Digital dentistry has become the standard, paving the way for future technologies.

2010s - Dental Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Although it may seem like a concept from a science fiction story, AI is a useful tool in dental applications. AI like Overjet and Pearl can pinpoint caries, guide dental surgeries, and offer a second opinion when human eyes may fail. Although it is a relatively new technology, the work of machine learning in dentistry cannot be ignored when discussing the future of dental technology.

  1. The history of orthodontics: from ancient braces to Invisalign. Orthodontics Australia. February 18, 2021. Accessed June 6, 2022.
  2. Soler JI, Ellacuria J, Triana R, Guinea E, Osborne JW. A history of dental amalgam. J Hist Dent. 2002;50(3):109-116.
  3. The story of fluoridation. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Updated July 2018. Accessed June 6, 2022.
  4. History of dental instruments - dental drill. History of Dentistry. Accessed June 6, 2022.
  5. Abraham CM. A brief historical perspective on dental implants, their surface coatings and treatments. Open Dent J. 2014;8:50-55. doi:10.2174/1874210601408010050
  6. Spielman A. Technology in dentistry, through the ages. NYU Dentistry. Accessed June 6, 2022.

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