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Dental procedures today are much better than they were in the middle ages. If you had a toothache back then, a barber just yanked out your tooth . . . without anesthesia. Learn about the invention stories of some of the tools which help the efficiency of dental procedures.

Dental Chair

Though some may dislike the blood rushing to their head when the dental chair leans back, this chair helps your dentist clean your teeth more easily. A dental chair was first created by American dentist Josiah Flagg in 1790 when he attached an adjustable headrest and arm extension to a wooden Windsor chair. In 1832, James Snell created the first reclining dental chair, and in 1877, the first pump hydraulic dental chair (called the Wilkerson chair) was invented. Finally, in 1958, the fully reclining dental chair came into being.

Dental Anesthesia

Many of us wouldn’t visit the dentist today if there wasn’t anesthesia available for root canal treatment. In the early 1840’s, American dentist Horace Wells first used nitrous oxide for oral surgery. However, this demonstration was deemed unsuccessful because the patient cried out during the procedure. A few years later in 1846, William Morton got the credit for successfully demonstrating anesthesia use for oral surgery by using ether. In 1905, the local anesthetic Novocain was created by a German chemist named Alfred Einhorn.

Dental Engine

How did dentists drill or prepare teeth without electricity? By using a foot-treadle dental engine. Dentist John Greenwood initially created this device in 1790, and it helped dental burs drill teeth more easily and quickly. The dental engine wouldn’t be produced commercially until 1871 when James B. Morrison took out a patent for it, and later when George F. Green created an electrical version of the device. The dental engine transformed into a high-speed handpiece in 1957 when John Borden created the Borden Airotor which moved at 300,000 rpms.