Going to one office for your annual physical and yet another for your dental checkup may seem inconvenient and illogical. It also may leave you wondering why all of these things aren’t handled by the same person in the same place. Why do you go to one type of doctor for your mouth and another type of doctor for everything else?
As with many things, the answer can be found in history. Dental care didn’t used to be taken as seriously as it is today, and in some places, instead of going to a doctor to care for your teeth, you actually went to a barber! That’s right, the same person who trimmed hair was expected to fix a toothache.
There really wasn’t such thing as preventive dental care back in the day, unless you count strange folk remedies, many of which sound like their only strength was the placebo effect. People sought out dental care when they had a toothache or other nagging dental problem. Annual teeth cleanings and checkups were unheard of, and there was no such thing as a professional dentist. All of this started to change in the 1700s when the French physician Pierre Fauchard wrote a treatise establishing dentistry as a scientific field in its own right, but the first dental college still wasn’t founded until 1840 in Baltimore.
With more scientific research and technological advancements, dentistry has been taken more seriously ever since. We now have a better understanding of how dental health affects your overall health, even in ways that weren’t obvious, such as the connection between advanced gum disease and cardiovascular disease. There may yet be a future when the worlds of dentistry and medicine more closely intertwine, but for now we’re grateful that we have the opportunity to specialize in a field that can change so many lives for the better.