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June 14, 2013
Whitening. Orthodontics. Veneers. These are examples of dental work that many of us take for granted.
100 years ago, most people sought dental care to eliminate pain. Often this meant extracting teeth — without anesthetic! In fact, 100 years ago, more than 50% of the population lost all of their teeth. Those who could afford them got dentures, but many people could not.
Today, only about 10% of population loses all of their teeth. While many technological advances have changed the course of oral health care, one of the most important reasons for better dental health is the emergence of dental hygienists.
In the early 1900’s, a Bridgeport, Connecticut dentist named Alfred C. Fones was an early proponent of preventative dental care. He believed that teeth cleaning was a way to maintain and preserve teeth. He taught his assistant and cousin, Irene Newman, many of the duties commonly provided by dental hygienists today.
Dr. Fones opened the first school of dental hygiene in Bridgeport in 1913. The first class, which included Irene Newman, graduated and was ready to begin practicing in June 1915.
A century after Dr. Fones started his dental hygiene school, there are now more than 150,000 dental hygienists in the United States. While most of us think of a dental hygienist as someone who cleans our teeth, cleaning is just a part of a range of prevention therapies practiced today.
A typical dental hygiene appointment includes a comprehensive clinical and gum disease assessment, with screening for oral cancer, caries (dental decay), and periodontal disease. Hygienists place dental sealants, apply fluoride treatments, and recommend a personal home-care regime and self-care products.
Your smile is one of the most important things you wear each day. Dental hygienists deserve a big thank you for their professionalism and dedication to improving the focus of oral health care over the last 100 years!