Some time an estimated 7,500 to 9,000 years ago, early man is suspected of using flint tips to drill into the enamel of teeth. Several skulls were found in Pakistan which appear to have molars drilled with flints, as reported in Nature in 2006. More recently though, a 6,500 year old tooth has been found in Slovenia with what is now regarded as the earliest (to date) dental filling material: beeswax. The early Neolithic inhabitants where the tooth was found engaged in farming, and used bees and wax. Many times primitive remedies find modern uses. Modern dentists use beeswax too, but not as a filling material!
Samuel Colt, famous inventor of the Colt pistol, needed money to promote his new invention. So he took to the road in the mid 1830’s as “the celebrated Dr. Coult of New York, London and Calcutta” and performed nitrous oxide (laughing gas) demonstrations. He was apparently very convincing and very successful. Whether he immediately influenced any dentists is not known, but what is known is after that laughing gas and dentists became like peanut butter and jelly: a great pairing. Laughing gas has a very mild anesthetic effect at very big levels, more noticeably on the gums. Since Colt used the money he made from his laughing gas demonstrations to promote his gun business, it was left to Horace Wells in 1844 to show how laughing gas could be in dentistry. From guns to gas, and gas to gums
Norman Rockwell created the image 70 years ago when American women joined the ranks of employment during World War II. Rockwell based his image of Rosie the Riveter on May Doyle, a nineteen year old who worked in a dental office in Arlington, Massachusetts. She worked as a phone operator in the office and probably never held a riveter (and hopefully not a dental drill either).