History of Dental Technology – part 6 – Chairs and Delivery Units

History of Dental Technology – part 6 – Chairs and Delivery Units

A dental history in 8 technologies – part 6

Dentistry has changed in the 150-years or so since it became a widely understood, regulated medical profession. But some of the technologies we use today would be unrecognisable to 19th-century dentists. During that time, procedures, materials technologies, microbiology and electronics have all interacted to create increasingly cleaver instruments, tools, gadgets and procedures for dentists.

Following our well-received article on ‘Coal Fired Dentistry‘, we thought we’d take a quick look at some of the key the technologies we take for granted every day.

Chairs and delivery units

Modern dental chairs are designed with the very specific needs of dental treatment in mind. They need to support the patient’s body (remembering that patients come in a variety of shapes and sizes), but to also be articulated so that the dentist can place patient in the best position in which to carry out their treatment.

Dental chairs obviously need to be comfortable and supportive of the patient. However, it is equally important that the dentist and nurse can also work comfortably, and access the teeth from the best angle while working.

Additionally, chairs need to be robust and made from materials that are easy to clean and offer a ‘professional’ appearance to help set the patient’s mind at ease. This has not always been possible to achieve.


Picture - Pierre Fauchard - 18th-century French dentists with some radical ideas.

Pierre Fauchard – 18th-century French dentists with some radical ideas.

The first dentist to sit patients in a chair (rather than on the ground, head gripped between the dentist’s knees) was Pierre Fauchard, a French dental surgeon in during the early 1700s.

Photo - dental chair

A typical late 19th-century dental chair

During the early 1800s, American dentists began using rocking chairs held in position by wedges.

As it became obvious that both patients and dentists needed more supportive and flexible seats, dentists began to make their own chairs.

But it took until the mid-1800s for the first commercially available dental examination chairs to come in to use.

However, for the next half-century, development was slow and incremental.

Photo - Ritter-Euphorian Model-D from 1959

Ritter-Euphorian Model-D from 1959

In 1958, the Californian designed Ritter-Euphorian arrived. This chair won the 1960 [American] Industrial Design Institute’s Gold Medal Award. It also featured at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

At one point it was even named as the chair people would most like to go to ‘space’ in, but we would suggest that accolade was bestowed by people who knew little about dentistry and nothing about space-flight.

Photo - John Naughton and his Den-Tal-Ez chair

John Naughton and his Den-Tal-Ez chair

However, the true ancestor of the modern chair was created by John Naughton from Iowa, also in 1958.

Naughton’s chair featured a break in the seat back. This allowed the patient to be positioned in a prone position, which in turn allowed the dentist to sit.

This flexibility in the way the patient can be positioned led to Naughton’s ‘Den-Tal-Ez’ recliner becoming accepted as a standard by the dental profession.

Delivery units

Photo - Ritter-D Superior Dental Uni

A modern dental chair made by Ritter, with delivery unit, suction unit and light

Dental chairs are also attached to or else used in conjunction with, a dental engine or ‘delivery unit’. These are the clever bits that supply the services needed by powered instruments. Delivery units control power, suction, water, air and the like.

A key component, as with so many other developments in dentistry, is the materials technology used in modern chairs.

Modern materials, such as plastics, allow them to be made lighter making them easier to handle.

Plastic can be formed to be waterproof and be infused or otherwise treated with antibacterial chemicals. This makes it easy to clean and reduces the risk of cross infection.


Pearl and dental chairs

Pearl Dental Software is designed to make the smooth and efficient running of your practice easier.

This includes excellent diary management features that not only keep your practice busy but to ensure you can plan for the time it takes your nurses to clean down and reequip between patients. Proper spacing between appointments ensures that all treatments are carried out efficiently and in a safe environment.

For more information, please contact us on 0116 275 9995 or email info@bhasoftware.com

Chris Webb