Review of the exhibit at the Art and Science

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On the 12th of February, I and my group travelled to the Science Museum and went to the 5th floor to visit the Art and Science of Medicine Exhibition. We individually had to decide on an area of interest in which we wanted to critically examine in order to look at the development in that field. In addition, we also had to examine the interaction between medical and social models with in that area as well as research into the other areas in which sociology has influenced.

The exhibition which I decided to have a look at was dentistry as I was intrigued how the technology and use of instruments has changed over the years. In addition, last year as part of one of my university placements I decided to work in a dentist for duration of a month, therefore I am familiar with the instruments which are used today, so I was interested in how they have developed. When I visited the Art and Science of Medicine Exhibition the dentistry section was mostly in one section which focused on the development of dentistry from the 18th century to the 20th century in the United Kingdom.

The ancient dentistry section was spread under different countries and their inventions related to dentistry, therefore I had a good look around, took down notes and took pictures as well. By examining the ancient section and having a look at what archaeologists have discovered through inspecting bones and teeth, I realised that people have always been troubled by dental issues for thousands of years. In some places, such as Pakistan they did what they can as there is indication of dental drills which were discovered in Neolithic graves (Neolithic Age lasted from 12,000 to 5,000 years ago).

The most primitive writing which was written on cuneiform tablets concerning toothaches was 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Then around 2250 before the Common Era, doctors started to treat toothaches with a combination of henbane and bees wax which was heated up till the smoke came out which was then directed to the tooth which was causing the pain. This was around the time in which more herbs were being used to treat health problems. The Egyptians and the Chinese also invented afew alternative therapies which were used to treat tooth pains and oral lesions.

Between 1000 and 400 B. C. E the Italians, Romans and Chinese began to invent and use dental bridges and doing procedures such as creating artificial teeth out of bones, wood and ivory. The Chinese also invented filling cavities by mixing silver, tin and mercury. Moving on to the development of dentistry in England, John Hunter of England started to transplant human teeth in the 1970’s. Hunter would give money to people for their healthy teeth and use them to implant teeth for his patients.

In England, throughout the mid-1800s, any person could become a dentist with no training. Whereas this has drastically changed now and has become a more challenging career to get in to as everything is more advanced now. In the late 1800s, dentists began to use cocaine as a local anaesthetic and this was then replaced with Novocain in 1905. This was the same time tooth brushes and toothpaste was being used by people. In 1906, Charles Land industrialised the first jacket crowns and later on Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays in 1985 and this revolutionized science and medicine.

In 1870 the first dentist drill was invented which was electrically driven and in the primary decades of the 1900s, teeth whitening became very popular as people were becoming more beauty aware and wanted to reach ‘perfection’ in their appearance. Looking at the 20th century onwards, all technology and instruments used in dentistry have developed as anyone with any teeth problems can sort out their issue as there is now more advanced technology and more guidelines which have to be followed in order to reach patient’s needs.

As a consequence of mass education, progresses in apparatus and materials, and improved accessibility of treatment, the late 20th century has witnessed an overall enhancement in the dental health of the populace in the west. In England, the Education Act of 1907 involved requirements for a schools dental facility, and the beginning of the National Health Service in 1948 made dental treatment accessible to the entire population. Under the Dentistry Act of 1921, dentistry converted in to a closed profession, with examination admission.

In 1956, an additional Act placed governor of the profession in the hands of the General Dental Council. Over the years the attitude to health and healthcare has significantly changed due to the improvement in technology and research. More people are aware of the treatment they can receive therefore they are less hesitant in receiving treatment and try to look after themselves more. There are now various different therapies and treatments available for all medical issues so people also have a choice in what treatment they wish to receive.

Within this exhibition I compared how dentistry was looked at before and how we look at it now. I found out that in history the medical model was mostly used to treat people as they did not take into account the social and emotional factors of how the injury or problem was caused and they mostly just focused on treating the patient. However, now a days the social model is mostly used in dentistry as we now focus more on finding the cure for the illness or problem, we focus on the roots of the illness rather than the cure so we can prevent it from happening again and we use medical knowledge to treat the problem.

In addition, patients are given choices regarding their health and more holistic remedies are used to help the patient. The exhibition presented medicine as a science that is beyond social examination as there was not enough information regarding the social aspect of dentistry in history but presented a great amount of information regarding the medical development of history. Sources used for this article were the book, The Excruciating History of Dentistry by James Wynbrandt, The Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000, Nature magazine, volume 440, April 6, 2006, the Web site for the American Dental Association and WebMD.

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