Fauchard, father of modern dentistry

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Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
01 April 2024 Monday 10:36
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Fauchard, father of modern dentistry

* The author is part of the community of readers of La Vanguardia

Pierre Fauchard (1678, Saint Denis de Gastines – 1761, Paris) was a French physician who is recognized as the “father of modern dentistry.” We understand Dentistry to be the medical specialty that is dedicated to the study of teeth and gums and the treatment of their ailments.

It is a discipline whose origin dates back thousands of years, with the first documented dental practice dating back to 5,000 years ago in Egypt. Quite a long way to reach our days, where the latest and most innovative technical advances and procedures prevail.

Fauchard is well known thanks to his book Le chirurgien dentiste (The Surgeon Dentist) of 1728. He was the first to offer a complete scientific description of dentistry where he describes the basic oral anatomy and functions, signs and symptoms of oral pathology, methods for extracting decayed teeth and repairing teeth, periodontal diseases (pyorrhea), replacing missing teeth and tooth transplantation.

At the age of 15 he entered the French Royal Navy and established contact with Alexander Poteleret, a surgeon who had studied diseases of the teeth and mouth for a long time.

Fauchard learns that sailors who made long voyages suffered from major dental problems, especially scurvy.

Poteleret encourages you to carefully read and research the teachings and discoveries of his successors in the healing arts and indicates that he wishes to disseminate the knowledge he has acquired at sea based on practice.

This idea resonates with Fauchard who expresses that he wants to train to be a combat medic. Once Fauchard leaves the Navy, he settles in Angers for a few years, where he practices medicine at the Angers University Hospital.

In Angers, Fauchard began much of the revolutionary work for which he is recognized today, being a pioneer of scientific oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Fauchard often describes himself as a "surgical dentist", a very rare term at the time, since dentists in the 17th century generally removed rotten teeth rather than treating them.

He was considered a very skilled surgeon by many of his colleagues at the Angers University Hospital. Fauchard made surprising developments in dental instruments, often adapting tools from watchmakers, jewelers, and even barbers, for use in dentistry.

Fauchard invented the dental filling as a treatment for cavities. He claimed that sugar-derived acids such as tartaric acid are responsible for cavities, and also suggested that tumors surrounding teeth in the gum may appear in the final stages of tooth rot.

Fauchard was the pioneer of dental prosthodontics (design and manufacturing of dental prostheses) and discovered numerous methods for replacing teeth.

He suggested that it might be possible to make substitutes by carving blocks of ivory or bone and that these artificial teeth would be as useful as natural ones.

One of their methods stated that artificial teeth would be secured by tying them to existing teeth with levers, using oiled threads or gold wire.

Pierre also invented dental appliances, initially made of gold, he discovered that the position of the tooth could be corrected since the tooth would conform to the pattern determined by the wires. Waxed waxed linen or silk threads were used to secure the appliances.

Between 1716 and 1718, Fauchard's prestige increased. During this time he spends long periods away from home studying and sharing his knowledge with other surgeons throughout France.

In 1718, Fauchard moved to Paris. During his stay in Paris, Pierre noticed that many medical libraries did not have good textbooks on dentistry and that it was necessary to have an encyclopedic teaching book on oral surgery, so he decided to write a professional dental treatise based on his experience.

For many months, Fauchard collected as many books on medicine as possible, interviewed the many dentists he had met, and combed through his personal diaries from his years in Angers to write his manual.

Finally, in 1723, at the age of 45, he finished the manuscript of Le Chirurgien Dentiste (The Surgeon Dentist). The manuscript was edited with great meticulousness and was published in 1728 in two volumes.

The book was well received by the medical community of Europe, a revised edition was published in French in 1746 and was translated into German in 1773.