Dental history

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Last reviewed: 18/09/2014
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Last updated: 18/09/2014
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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.

The Smile

Recently we have acquired two books relating separate histories of "The Smile".

This book is the story of "how we first learned to smile". It includes a chapter entitled Cometh the dentist which describes the lives of tooth puller showman, le Grand Thomas in contrast to possibly the first "modern" dentist, Pierre Fauchard. The chapter then briefly talks about the development of professional dentistry.

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

Read more about this book here

More a description of the many varieties and meanings of smiles than a work of dental history. Still it does discuss dentures and the art of the dentist in the chapter entitled Deceit.

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

Read more about this book here

Dentists in World War One

The Glimpses of BDA Past page is focusing on events at the beginning of the war surrounding military recruits. Thousands were rejected from military service because of the state of their teeth.

Throughout this memorial period @BDALibrary will be tweeting every Sunday using #WW1Dentists to highlight the role of dentists during World War One both on the home front and in the armed forces, as dentists and as ordinary servicemen.

Please join in with your own stories using the hashtag at any time.

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.