History of Dental Technology – part 3 – Anaesthetics

History of Dental Technology – part 3 – Anaesthetics

A dental history in 8 technologies – part 3

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.


Drawing - Sir Humphrey Davy

Sir Humphrey Davy – his many discoveries included Nitrous Oxide or ‘Laughing Gas’.

This is a painful subject. Many of us find it hard to imagine having a filling or extraction (let alone a root canal treatment) without anaesthetic. Yet anaesthetics are the single biggest source of anxiety for nervous patients visiting their dentist.

In fact, anaesthetics and their development go hand in hand with dentistry becoming a properly recognised and regulated profession during the 19th Century.

Humphrey Davy discovered of Nitrous Oxide and its ability to reduce pain in 1779. It was not until the 1840s that Horace Wells, a dentist from New England, started experimenting with its use in dentistry.

Drawing - This-image-of-William-Morton-perhaps-explains-why-so-many-patients-are-scare-of-anaesthetics

This image of William Morton perhaps explains why so many patients are scare of anaesthetic

Around the same time, William Morton successfully demonstrated Ether as a dental anaesthetic.

Before these two gaseous compounds, patients in need of pain relief usually had to rely on alcohol consumption, or on local nerve compression, so these represented a significant advance in pain relief.

The hollow needle and hypodermic syringe were first developed in 1853, but it was not until the 1880s that it became a dental instrument when Carl Koller suggested injecting cocaine for local anaesthesia.

Photo - A Pravaz Hypodermic Syringe in Silver c.1853

A Pravaz Hypodermic Syringe in Silver c.1853

New compounds were soon developed to be more effective, easier and safer to use and to reduce side effects. The first of these, Novocaine, was developed in 1904 – arguably the first modern anaesthetic. Synthesized Lignocaine arrived in 1943, and Halothane in 1953, which is still in use today. In 1967, Pavulon was first used, Forane in 1982, Diprivan in 1990, and Desflurane in 1992.

These later product developments included properly worked out and measured doses. For the first half century of anaesthetics, dosage was largely guesswork, with the occasional accident. And even today, in some treatment regimes, anaesthetic is an extra cost option!

Using anaesthetic technologies with Pearl

As you might expect, Pearl Dental Software doesn’t care what anaesthetic you use on your patient. However, the patient records and practitioner’s notes facilities are designed to make certain you capture full information about your treatments and diagnosis, and that those details are easily retrieved for comparison.

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

Chris Webb