5 Famous & Infamous Dentists that Changed Dentistry

1.Dentist Turned Infamous Outlaw

John Henry "Doc" Holliday Via en.wikipedia.org

John Henry “Doc” Holliday Via en.wikipedia.org

Many of us know that Doc Holliday, was a dentist, we also know he had to quit dentistry because he got tuberculosis. Did  you  know it is said that he acquired this disease by being a dentist? In the gun slinging days of the west, the dentists did  not wear  any kind of protection like they do today and dentistry was a very vulnerable career to be in. Lets find a little bit  more about “Doc” that maybe we did not know.

John Henry Holliday, born August 14, 1859 in Griffin, Georgia and died November 8, 1887 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Holliday was born to Henry Burroughs Holliday and Alice Jane Holliday (née McKey). Holliday was born with a cleft palate and partly cleft lip that was repaired by his uncle, Dr. J.S. Holliday, and a family cousin, the famous physician Crawford Long. Holliday needed many hours of speech therapy conducted by his mother. Could this be where his interest for dentistry came in play? Maybe. In 1864 his family moved to Valdosta, Georgia where Holliday’s mother died of tuberculosis on September 16, 1866 when he was 15 years old.The same disease killed his stepbrother. While in Valdosta, he attended the Valdosta Institute, where he received a strong classical secondary education in rhetoric, grammar, mathematics, history, and languages—principally Latin but also French and some Ancient Greek.

In 1870 the 19-year-old Holliday left home to begin dental school in Philadelphia On March 1, 1872, at the age of 20, he met the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery(DDS) from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. He graduated five months before his 21st birthday, which would have been problematic since this age was needed both to hold a D.D.S. degree and to practice dentistry as anything other than a student under a preceptor in Georgia. Doc won awards as a dentist during the Annual Fair of the North Texas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Blood Stock Association at the Dallas County Fair together with his dental partner Doctor John A. Seegar. Holliday took all three awards – “best set of teeth in gold,” “the best in Vulcanized rubber” and “the best set of artificial teeth and dental ware. Holliday did not go home after graduation but worked as an assistant with a classmate, A. Jameson Fuches, Jr., in St. Louis, Missouri. By the end of July he had moved to Atlanta, where he lived with his uncle and his family while beginning his career as a dentist. A few weeks before his birthday, the Atlanta papers carried an announcement by noted dentist Arthur C. Ford in Atlanta that Holliday would fill his place in the office while he was attending dental meetings. This was the beginning of Holliday’s career in private practice as a dentist. Shortly after beginning his dental practice, Holliday was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he may have caught it from a coughing or sneezing patient. Little or no precaution was taken against this during dental procedures, as tuberculosis was not known to be contagious until 1885. He was given only a few months to live, but he considered that moving to the drier and warmer southwest might slow the deterioration of his health. This is when he became a gambler/gunfighter. He was taught to shoot by his father who served in the Mexican-American war and the Civil war, during which his father brought with him an adopted son named Francisco and taught Holliday shooting. I think we know the rest of the story from here. Doc Holliday is probably the most famous & infamous Dentist we know because of the movies and books. There are other Dentists that we probably do not know about that are very famous for what they have done and in some cases, we are very thankful for their inventions!

Pierre Fauchard via en.wikipedia.org

Pierre Fauchard via en.wikipedia.org

2.The Father of Modern Dentistry

Born in 1678, Pierre Fauchard is easily the most important modern dentist in history. This French physician is  known as the “father of modern dentistry.” In 1728, he wrote the influential The Surgeon Dentist in which he  covered dental anatomy, pathology, operative dentistry, and even topics in periodontics and orthodontics. This  was the first comprehensive scientific description of dentistry. Maintaining his legacy today, the Pierre Fauchard Academy is an international honor dental organization and is known widely for its leadership within dental circles worldwide.

3.The Father of Operative Dentistry

More often known as G.V. Black, this dentist (born in 1836) is known as the “father of operative dentistry.” He  also organized Black’s Classification of Carious Lesions which is still used by dentists today (with the exception of  one more Class added in more recent times: the Class VI). Known for his principles of tooth preparation, he  coined the phrase “extension for prevention” which still carries weight today in the minds of general dentists.  G.V. Black also perfected dental amalgam and investigated fluorosis.

G.V. Black Classification Chart of Caries Lesions

G.V. Black Classification Chart of Caries Lesions

4. Father of Orthodontics

Edward Hartley Angle, born in 1855, this American dentist is known as the “father of modern orthodontics.” Edward dedicated his life to standardizing, teaching, and practicing orthodontics. Known for his Angles Classification which is still used widely today by both general dentists and orthodontists, he also coined the term ‘malocclusion.’ Angle went on to invent many appliances for orthodontic treatment and devised numerous surgical techniques.

5. The First Anesthesiologist

Morton Ether 1846 via en.wikipedia.org

Morton Ether 1846 via en.wikipedia.org

William Thomas Green Morton, born in 1819, Morton was an American dentist that first demonstrated the use of ether as a general anesthetic in conjunction with surgery in 1846. Thus, he is sometimes referred to as the “discoverer of anesthesia.” After Morton conducted his first ‘painless’ tooth extraction using ether, another demonstration was arranged in a theater at  Massachusetts General Hospital, which is now known as the famed ‘Ether Dome.

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