Excerpt from Transactions of the Odontological Society of Great Britain, Vol. 29
One bright event shone out amidst the surrounding gloom of this dark autumn, when, on September 23, our beloved Sovereign's benignant reign exceeded in length that of any predecessor on the Briti... sh, and, with one exception, of any European throne.
In the immense advance made during the Victorian era in scientific medicine and surgery, our branch of the healing art can claim a full share.
In every department we can note improvement, but to see it even more vividly portrayed, let us for a moment, without going into ancient history, glance into the condition of dental surgery in the latter part of the last century. Conservative dental surgery was then comparatively un known or unpractised, although many operations connected with the teeth and oral cavity are described with much detail and ability by that astute odontologist, John Hunter. His writings well repay perusal and study, even in these days, when of making many books there is no end.
Writing of caries in the year 1778, John Hunter says, we have not as yet found any means of preventing this disease or curing it. All that can be done is to fill the hole with lead, which prevents the pain and retards the decay, but after the tooth is broken this is not practicable. From this we gather that John Hunter had no opinion of contour fillings, to say nothing of gold crowns. His estimate of the dentist of his day was sadly low, for he says in his introduction I shall purposely avoid entering into common surgery, nor to lead the dentist beyond his depth and to matters of which it is to be supposed he has not acquired a competent knowledge.
It is by looking back to a condition of things like this that we can best estimate the enormous strides that have been made. In the onward march of events it must in justice to our transatlantic brethren be said that it was in the United States that a systematic training was first organised and diplomas granted in dental surgery.
The first dental college was opened in Baltimore, and I well recollect, at the International Medical Congress at Washington in 1887, meeting a fine old gentleman who was the possessor of the oldest dental diploma in existence, and if I rightly remember, the second that was ever granted.
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