You most likely know a dentist, especially if you get an annual checkup. However, beyond the cushy chair and bright overhead lights, you might not know much about the world of dentistry.
Dentists are incredibly important to overall society, as they ensure we have good oral hygiene by encouraging flossing, getting rid of plaque, and removing tooth decay. Beyond just this, having a clean mouth and teeth can lead to a higher life expectancy and more happiness in your life.
That said, here are 15 interesting facts about dentists you probably didn’t know.
1. The First Dentist Was an Egyptian
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The earliest dentist was Hesy-Ra, who lived around the time the Egyptian Pyramids were built. He lived in the 26th century and served pharaohs and royalty.
However, he was also interested in caring for ordinary people, as he saw the importance of workers’ dental health as it could delay construction efforts. Hesy-Ra was highly regarded in his time, and upon his passing in 2600 BC, Pharaoh Sahura ordered that tablets should be engraved with his name and likeness.
2. Dentistry Is a High-Paying Occupation
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Dentists are highly regarded in modern society for the role they play in maintaining people’s health. Besides this, they also earn a lucrative salary, from $200,000 and more. In terms of wages, the highest-paying dentists are:
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeons: around $330,000
- Orthodontists: around $300,000
- General dentist: around $210,000
Now this salary only increases for those who have private practices, where some earn up to a million dollars.
3. First Toothbrush Ever Invented
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Toothbrushes were first used by the Hindu people in the nation of India back in 4000 BC.
However, they are extremely different from modern toothbrushes, which have over 25,000 strands in them.
Back in ancient times, humans used different kinds of tree twigs to brush their teeth. Early man used the twigs’ tips by separating the fibers into a rudimentary brush. How crazy is that?
Thankfully, we don’t need to use sticks anymore, and we can thank the country of China for this. This is because the first modern toothbrushes were invented in China in the year 1600 — and had strands made of hog bristles.
4. Flossing Could Improve Your Life Expectancy
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Yeah, you read that right. For many, flossing can be quite an annoyance, and so they neglect to do it. However, it is an essential oral hygiene habit that can increase your life expectancy.
According to a study in the Journal of Aging Research, there is a correlation between longevity and nightly brushing and flossing. It concluded that your chances of death were 30% higher if you never flossed, 20 – 35% if you never brushed your teeth at night, and 30 – 50% higher if you hadn’t visited a dentist in a year.
5. Dentists Are Respected
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According to a 2019 Gallup poll on honesty and ethics in professions in the US, dentists are well-respected and trusted. This poll ranked dentists as the fifth most honest profession, as 68% of the 1000 respondents rated them “very high/high” due to their ethical standards.
So just remember that when going to the dentist, you’ll be in good hands. In fact, that goes with most medical appointments, as nurses and medical doctors were in the top three most trusted professions.
6. A Dentist Invented the Electric Chair
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For some people, going to the dentist can feel like a death sentence. As you sink into the comfy chair and open up your mouth, trusting in a stranger can be quite daunting.
But did you know that a dentist is actually responsible for the invention of the electric chair? Yeah, Dr. Alfred P. Southwick, an American dentist, coincidentally witnessed an intoxicated man bumbling about who touched a live generator terminal and instantly died.
After getting over the shock (pun intended), Southwick realized that electric currents could be a more painless way to sentence criminals to death. Given his experience as a dentist, he knew that people were easier retained when seated.
After a decade of lobbying and convincing, New York Legislature passed a law allowing electrocution to be used for execution.William Kemmler became the first person to be electrocuted on August the 6th, 1890, in New York.
7. Millions of School Hours Are Lost Due to Unexpected Dental Care
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This may shock you, but over 34 million school hours are lost annually in the US due to issues with children’s teeth. This statistic from the CDC shows the sign of teaching kids the importance of good oral care at a young age, as it prevents them from missing out on school.
However, it is also essential to inform our young ones about this, as having poor oral health can lead to losing teeth, having gum diseases, and enduring painful procedures.
Good habits to establish are flossing regularly, brushing teeth at the correct time, and drinking fluoridated water.
8. Sweden Has the Most Dentists
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Sweden has the highest rate of dentists in the world, with 17.73 dentists per 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. This is not unexpected as the country has a fantastic healthcare system — and the Swedes have some of the best teeth in the world.
In fact, Sweden is the country with a DMFT score of 0.8, which means its citizens have some of the cleanest teeth in the world. With the excellent benefits of universal healthcare and a socialist government, it’s no wonder this is the case.
9. Paul Revere Was a Trained Dentist
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Paul Revere was a trained dentist, most famously known for warning the patriot leaders about the British. Yeah, that’s right, one of the most famous figureheads of the American Revolution knew how to wire dentures and replace teeth.
He also became the first recorded person to practice forensic dentistry, identifying the body of his compatriot during the Battle of Bunker Hill. However, despite the legend, he was not responsible for making George Washington’s dentures.
10. George Washington Didn’t Have Wooden Teeth
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Many people believe that George Washington had wooden teeth. This is fake news.
The real truth is that the first American president actually had dentures that were made of hippo tusks, elephant ivory, gold, and his slave’s teeth. Besides the horrifying truth of this fact, it’s also disgusting to think about the lack of oral hygiene at the time.
11. Average Teethbrushing Time
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In contrast to the previous distasteful fact, humans have gotten a lot better at cleaning our teeth. Compared to the toothpaste used in Ancient Greece made of pumice, coral powder, or alabaster, we have all sorts of tools and techniques to clean our teeth.
That said, the average person only spends 50 to 70 seconds a day brushing their teeth. This is way less than the recorded time by dentists of 240 seconds per day. So, if you tend to underbrush, remember that it could cause you an unexpected trip to the dentist and affect your smile.
12. Fear of Dentists
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Also known as dentophobia, this fear results in extreme anxiety about being at a dentist’s office, thinking about going to one or even book an appointment. It’s a phobia 36% of Americans have, and it can often result from a past stressful experience or from feeling embarrassed about your face, mouth, or breath.
If you fear going to the dentist, the best solution is exposure therapy. This is where a mental health professional will expose you to scenarios and images that may trigger dentophobia. It can ultimately help you in becoming comfortable with dentists.
13. The (Unlikely) Most Famous Dentist
One of the most famous works of art, American Gothic, is often believed to be a portrait of a farmer and his wife. It details rural American life and the start of the Great Depression, according to Grant Wood, its painter.
However, the reality of this painting is far different from the original story, as the man was actually Wood’s dentist and friend, Dr. Byron H. McKeeby. McKeeby initially refused Wood’s offer to be in the painting, fearing notoriety.
Wood managed to convince him by telling him he’d exaggerate the dentist’s features. This did not work, and his friends teased him about his appearance.
14. Dentists Know If You Lie
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As mentioned before, dentists are seen as some of the most honest and trusted medical professionals. They are also extremely great at detecting your different habits, like how often you brush and if you floss, just by looking at your teeth.
So with that in mind, it’s best to be as honest as possible with your dentist while in an appointment. They only want the best for you and aren’t out to get you.
15. Before Dentists, Barbers Removed Teeth
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While fear of dentists can be understandable due to previous stressful encounters, it used to be way direr for those suffering from toothache. As dentists used to be way less commonplace and expensive, many people would go to a barber instead.
Here, they could get a haircut and have their rotten tooth yanked out. And as Novocain was only invented in 1903, this procedure would have been very painful. Let’s just be grateful that doesn’t happen anymore!
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