Pierre Fauchard: A dentistry pioneer or a fraud?
Pierre Fauchard is widely credited with being the ‘father of modern dentistry’. The French physician worked in Paris in the first half of the 18th century and it was there he penned and published the first textbook on dentistry. Here, he outlined the best procedures for not just extracting teeth but also for proactively preventing tooth decay and even for restoring teeth back to full health. Fauchard is also regarded as a pioneer in the fields of orthodontics and even tooth transplantation and his book influenced numerous physicians and helped establish dentistry as a proper branch of medicine.
To some historians, however, Fauchard was more a PR genius and hustler than a genuine progressive healthcare profession. He served as a lowly ‘tooth-puller’ for many years before re-inventing himself as a modern dental professional in fine clothes and with an exclusive address. What’s more, Fauchard and his contemporaries would push the view that the tooth-pullers were backwards and barbaric, while their methods were modern and even painless. Of course, given the tools available to them, they could never extract a tooth without inflicting significant pain on the patient. Indeed, for all their pretensions, Fauchard and the modern dentistes who emerged in 1750s Paris used almost the exact same techniques as the backstreet barber-dentists of the time.
Other critics go further and have called Fauchard and his peers ‘charlatans’. According to such views, they were simply old-fashioned tooth-pullers who convinced the French elite that they could give them beautiful smiles – for a price, of course. In this respect, they were the first real cosmetic dentists, making a fortune from vanity and often subjecting patients to unnecessary produces.