When Did Removal of Wisdom Teeth Begin?

Blonde teenage girl that needs her wisdom teeth removed smiles with her eyes closed while in the woods

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that erupt behind the two sets of molars, typically in a person’s late teens or early twenties. These teeth often are misaligned or impacted (stuck below the gumline) and require removal to prevent potential dental health problems, such as overcrowding, decay, gum disease, infection, and damage to neighboring teeth. For these reasons, surgical removal or extraction of wisdom teeth is common and routine. But has it always been that way?

Why Wisdom Teeth Removal Was Previously Unpopular

Prior to the introduction of Novocaine in 1902, wisdom teeth were probably rarely, if ever, removed as a preventive measure. Patients who experienced problems or infection with their wisdom teeth either had to live with the pain or endure the agonizing procedure of getting them dug out without sedation and anesthesia. This would have been an intimidating procedure for anyone due to the extreme pain, but it was made worse that it was difficult to find a qualified doctor. Moreover, they lacked the perks of modern surgical dentistry many of us take for granted, such as specialized tools, proper lighting, magnification, and antibiotics. Unfortunately, many people likely died from wisdom tooth infections. But by the 1950s, the advent of antibiotics dramatically reduced infection-related deaths.

The Need for Wisdom Teeth By Early Humans

Considering how much trouble wisdom teeth often cause, it’s reasonable to wonder we even have them in the first place! One theory is that our early ancestors wore out their teeth by early adulthood and needed a third set of molars for continued function. Early humans ate a diet of hard-to-chew foods like roots and raw meat. Though there is evidence of “chew sticks” being used anciently to clean teeth, a lack of oral hygiene inevitably would have led to decayed and missing teeth. So an extra pair that emerged later in life would have come in handy!

The Evolution of Smaller Jaws

Human jaws eventually grew smaller as society transitioned to a more agriculturally-based food supply of softer, cooked foods and the need for extra teeth declined. Some people never develop wisdom teeth, others only have one or two, and many of us have all four! And most patients just don’t have enough room for any number of these third molars, thus they commonly need to be removed.

Do You Need Your Wisdom Teeth Removed?

If you still have any or all of your wisdom teeth, don’t wait until they become problematic to have them examined. Here at Rigby Advanced Dental, we can not only determine whether you’d benefit from having your wisdom teeth removed, but we can perform the procedure in-house so you don’t need to be referred out. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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19th Century Dental Milestones

In the 1800s, dental technology started to take a turn for the better. Here is a timeline of some of the most notable dental events of the 19th century that helped shape the advancement of modern dental treatment and technology:

19th Century Dental Timeline

1801 — Richard C. Skinner wrote the first dental book, Treatise on the Human Teeth, to be published in the United States.

5 ascending stacks of silver coins, what dental fillings were made of in the 19th century

1816 — Auguste Taveau invented the first dental fillings. These fillings were made from silver coins and mercury.
1825 — Samuel Stockton began the commercial manufacturing of porcelain teeth. His company was called White Dental Manufacturing Company. They established and dominated the dental market during the 19th century.
1832 — James Snell invented the first reclining chair.
1839 — Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanized rubber. This led to denture bases becoming more affordable. They were previously made out of gold.

A red and yellow apple sits atop a small stack of old books against a chalkboard

1840 — Thomas Morton was the first to demonstrate the use of anesthesia for dental surgery. Horace Hayden and Chapin Harris founded the world’s first dental school, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery and established the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree.
1864 — Sanford C. Barnum developed the rubber dam. This helped isolate the tooth from the oral cavity.
1870s —Larger cavities began being filled with baked porcelain inlays. James Beall Morrison patented the first mechanical dental drill. Unfortunately, it was extremely slow and a filling would take hours to complete.
1890s — Willoughby Miller is the first to describe the microbial basis of dental cavities in his book Micro-Organisms of the Human Mouth. This raised awareness for cavity prevention and helped oral care companies begin their marketing for at-home oral health products.

Black and white panoramic dental X-ray showing the teeth of an adult

1896 — Edmund Kells adapted Wilhelm Roentgen’s X-ray for dental needs, and Washington Wentworth Sheffield invented the first toothpaste tube.

Our Modern-Day Technology

Because of these individuals, and those during the last 100 years, we have seen even greater advancements in at-home dental hygiene, in-office dental procedures and treatments, and dental technology. We are grateful for those who came before us that introduced their inventions and advocated for improvements in the field of dentistry! Come check out our high-quality dental care and advanced technology at our comfortable practice, Rigby Advanced Dental, in The Offices at The Hill Country Galleria. Contact us to schedule your next checkup and cleaning.