Ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and Romans have written down various remedies for treating gum inflammation. These remedies are not anything a modern periodontist would recognize as valid treatments for gum disease, however. It’s not until Middle Ages that you find of a record of a treatment that resemble modern day periodontics. Starting with the middle ages, here is a history of discoveries, advancements, and milestones in the field of periodontics.
The first record of dental scaling
During the first century CE in Moorish Spain the doctor known as Albucasis wrote a medical treatise that included instructions on removing dental calculus using a dental scaler in order to treat gum disease. This is still used to this day (albeit with more advanced tools) during regular cleanings or scaling and root planing procedures. Albucasis even went as far as designing tools for dental scaling. Despite this, Albucasis did not specialize in periodontics like modern day periodontists, but instead offered this periodontal treatment in addition to many other medical treatments.
Recognizing the need for specialization in gums and teeth
It’s not until the 14th century that we see a book specifically about gums and teeth. Bartolomeo Eustachi, an Italian anatomist released “Libellus de Dentibus”, the first book specifically about teeth and gums, in 1563. This book reiterates the importance of removing calculus that was seen in Albucasis’ work while also introducing other modern ideas such as removal of infected gum tissue as in today’s root planing procedures. These days, periodontists can use tools such as lasers to remove infected gum tissue, something Eustachi probably could not even conceive of.
The first description of a gingivectomy
The 14th century also saw the introduction of gingivectomy as a surgery. Despite being a barber-surgeon, a profession with a questionable reputation, Ambroise Paré stood out from the crowd of barber-surgeons with his insights into dentistry and the invention of new dental tools. In addition to his insights and inventions he also developed a surgery to remove hyperplastic gingival tissues, or as modern periodontist would call it, a gingivectomy.
The invention of modern dentistry and periodontics
In 1728, a physician named Pierre Fauchard published what some might argue is the most important book on dentistry in the 18th century, “Le Chirurgien Dentiste, ou Traité des Dents”. This was a seminal treatise on dentistry that led to dentistry becoming more of a standalone profession rather than being the domain of barber-dentists. The publication of the book also started a trend of focusing on tooth preservation as opposed to extraction.
The first gum specialists
While Pierre Fauchard gave rise to surgeons specializing in dentistry, it’s not until the 19th century that we see the first dentist specializing in the gums. The first dentist to specialize in gum care is an American named John Mankey Riggs, who also happened to be Mark Twain’s personal dentist. His influence on the field was so that gum disease was called “Rigg’s Disease” during that time. His choice to focus on gum health eventually led to the creation of other gum specialty practices as well as the formation of American Academy of Periodontology’s predecessor in 1914 by Grace Rogers Spalding.
With a history spanning over a millennium, periodontics is very mature field with many proven treatments. If you live near Lexington and are suffering from gum disease, don’t hesitate to contact Concord Lexington Periodontics for a periodontal consultation. The periodontists at Concord Lexington Periodontics have a variety of time-tested treatments options at their disposal in order to help restore your gum health.