Dental history

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Last reviewed: 10/02/2014
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Last updated: 10/02/2014
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Are you doing a talk or research into the history of dentistry? The BDA library can help you with a wide variety of resources. This page describes some of the books, journals and other resources held in the library’s collection. Most of these are available to borrow.

For our complete history of dentistry collection please browse the library catalogue or contact a member of staff for more information on 020 7563 4545.

To complement the library's book and package loans why not borrow a box of historic artefacts from the BDA Dental Museum.

New online resource for the history of public health

The Wellcome Library has just launched a new free online database, London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972.

One interesting dental item is in a 1903 Annual report of the Medical Officer of Health for Woolwich.

In a section entitled Dentistry and the Care of Teeth it states:

"One of the principle causes and accompaniments of physical degeneration is early decay of the teeth. Whatever is the cause of this decay, there is no doubt that it is easily preventable if the teeth are properly cared for and systematic resort had to the dentist."

Its conclusion is that the Woolwich Guardians will appoint a dentist to examine and treat the teeth of the children in the Goldie Leigh Homes.

Books in focus

Books_webiconHere we focus on a few of the more recent titles that are available for loan.


Philias R Garant
The Long Climb: From Barber-Surgeons to Doctors of Dental Surgery
Quintessence Publishing, 2013

If you would like to request this book for loan please email us.

Read more about this book here

This is a very readable clearly set out book which presents an overview of the history of dentistry up to the end of the 19th century. The final chapter does briefly bring dentistry up to date with a short look at how it has developed in the USA in the last 100 years or so.


The author, an American dental educator and scientist looks at the subject less in terms of a timeline and more in terms of the personalities (eg Pierre Fauchard, GV Black, William Morton and the BDA's very own Sir John Tomes) and controversies (eg gold vs amalgam and mechanical vs operative) that have pushed forward development.


The only slight drawback to this book is that although profusely illustrated the quality of the images is not the best and none of the sources are credited.

You may also be interested in:

Christine Hillam (Editor) 
Dental practice in Europe at the end of the 18th century
Rodopi, 2003

If you would like to request this book for loan please email us.

Read a review of this book that appeared in the BDJ

Bringing together resources and information about dental practice in France, the British Isles, the Netherlands, Hungary and Germany, this book provides important insights into the role of European dentistry in the latter part of the 1700s. This is a period when dentistry as a specialty began to emerge and for the first time the research focuses on sources such as newspaper advertisements and commercial directories to place the role of the dental practitioner within a wider social and political context during of an era of great change.

Why not try other books by Christine Hillam:

E J Grant
The Toothwrights' Tale:
A history of dentistry in the Royal Navy 1964-1995
Chaplin Books, 2012

If you would like to request this book for loan please email us.

A history of the RNDS following the amalgamation of the three armed forces ministries into the Ministry of Defence, later leading to the rationalisation of the military dental branches into the Defence Dental Services. The book covers the Falklands Conflict, the Cold War and its end and the invasion of Kuwait.  Many personal reflections and stories from dental officers about their experiences serving in the Royal Navy are included throughout.

It is a sequel to A History of Dentistry in the Royal Navy 1905-1964 by N G Daws and J V Holland. If you would like to borrow this earlier book please email us.

For further insights into dental history visit the BDA Dental Museum.