Monday, July 1, 2013

Here's To The Red, White and Blue...And To Dentistry!

As we celebrate Independence Day, let's also salute the role that dentistry has played in shaping our nation.

Paul Revere (1735-1818), that famous statesman who gave the "heads up" that the British were coming, was a silversmith...and a dentist!

Revere practiced dentistry in Boston for about six years, and was taught his craft by John Baker (1732-1796), a dentist who, while working in Williamsburg, Virginia, actually provided services to George Washington (who is nearly as famous for his dental problems as he is for being the father of our country).

Because Paul Revere was a silversmith, he worked a lot with prosthetics and made artificial teeth.  In 1776, he played a large role in one of the earliest recorded cases of dental forensics.  At the Battle of Bunker Hill the previous year, a man named Dr. Joseph Warren (1741-1775), a physician and major general in the Massachusetts Militia, received the unfortunate distinction of being the first American general officer to be killed in action.  His body was buried with many others from that infamous battle in a mass grave.  A year later, Massachusetts wanted to honor Warren, and decided to exhume his body for reburial in a special plot.  But given that it was in a mass grave, Warren's body was difficult to identify. Revere was called in, and he actually recognized a dental prosthetic that he had made years earlier for Warren (a bicuspid tooth), thus solving the mystery.

Revere was one of an estimated 79 dentists practicing around the time of the Revolutionary War.  Most of those dentists had somewhat questionable training, often learning their craft in apprentice positions. It wasn't until 1840, 22 years after Revere's death, that the first actual dental school opened in America.  Dr. Horace Hayden (1769-1844), who served as an assistant surgeon in the War of 1812, founded the world's first institution dedicated to the study of dentistry:  the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery at the University of Maryland.

Dentistry has come along way since America's early days.  This Independence Day, Dr. Neuhaus and the staff of Wilmette Dental will celebrate the men who helped build our great
country...and who laid the foundation for modern American dentistry.

Happy Fourth of July!

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