Museum Talk

Friday, April 26, 2013

One interesting item at the museum is the dental chair. This chair doesn't resemble, in any way, the dental chairs of today. Chairs from this

This early version of a dental chair is on display at the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette.

Victorian era resemble a torture device. The chair at the museum is made of metal and would be very uncomfortable to sit in. There is a head rest that has a crank to adjust it, the chair seat can be adjusted for height by spinning, the arms can swing out and are adjustable, and the back can recline by using foot pedals at the base of the chair. This chair is believed to be from the early 1900's.

Dentistry, in some form, has been practiced since ancient times. Accounts of dental treatment appear in Egyptian scrolls dating from 1500 BC. The Etruscans, an ancient civilization who lived in Italy after 800 BC were excellent dentists. They made false teeth from animal teeth held together with gold bands. The Romans used similar methods. In the Middle Ages, the Monks acted as doctors and dentists. In the 12th century the Church forbade the clergy to do operations and the barber-surgeon-dentist emerged. As well as cutting your hair and doing surgery, he would pull your teeth.

The beginning of dentistry in America came in the 1630's with the settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who were accompanied by barber-surgeons-dentists. One of the first dentists in America was John Baker. The first American born dentist is believed to be Isaac Greenwood who began practicing dentistry in 1779.

It was in 1844 when American dentist Horace Wells discovered the anesthetic properties of nitrous-oxide. This was a remarkable discovery. Numerous advances in equipment, materials and techniques soon followed. New dental schools were being established. One of the first dental schools was at Harvard University in 1867. Nevertheless, most dentists were still being trained by working with established dentists.

Dental chairs began as typical sitting chairs, fashioned of wood with four legs and a head rest and a foot rest for comfort. Of course, these chairs were used by barbers also. In 1790 Josiah Flagg invented a dentists chair and in 1832 the first reclining dental chair is credited to James Snell. In 1877 Basil Wilkerson invented a hydraulic chair. Still, these first dentist chairs were inconvenient for the dentist and patient alike. The museum also has several tools for pulling teeth. When you look at the chair, tools and picks, it is no wonder that dentistry suffered such a horrifying image.

Modern dental chairs are real masterpieces. They have a module for the tools and instruments, and have a control panel that regulates air, water, and spray supply. You can choose from various chair positions and the entire surface of the chair is covered with an antibacterial coating. They are very comfortable for the patient and convenient for the dentist. Going to the dentist today is no longer something to dread.

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