It is one of the most feared professions that we all regularly come into contact with – and one that can send a shiver down the spine, no matter what your age.
This week, our Midweek Retro A-Z of jobs takes a look at the world of dentists – and mere mention of just the word can bring people out in a cold sweat.
Many of us will be able to recall those nerve-shredding encounters as a youngster, gripping the hands of our parents just a little bit tighter as we made our way to the surgery for our six-monthly check-up.
There would be the anxious wait in the waiting room, shuffling through the piles of old magazines to kill time – anything to put thoughts of lying back in that chair firmly on the back burner.
Then there were the sights, sounds and smells – the posters adorning the walls urging regular brushing (and the perils of not doing so), the high-pitched whine of the drill, surely one of the most terrifying sounds a young child could ever be subjected to and the sickly smells of that mouth rinse stuff and the metallic tang of the material they use for fillings.
Of course, things have changed a little since then, but for many, the regular fear of a trip to the dentist remains. It appears that no matter the amount of positive PR on behalf of the dentistry industry, for some, lying pole-axed in the chair, gazing into the lights while your pearly whites are picked and prodded at with a variety of menacing implements will be one of those regular things we’ll never quite be able to look forward to.
Mind, it could be worse. When dentistry first began in the Middle Ages, the job of tooth care was one dealt with by barbers – and little thought went into patient care.
Needless to say, methods in those days were primitive and sufferers would more than likely come away in more pain than when they went in – and some never came out at all. Of course, hygiene and pain relief was non-existent and rotten teeth would be excruciatingly wrenched out with pliers and other rudimentary tools.
The origins of a more modern era came out of France. Pierre Fauchard, often referred to as the father of modern dentistry, publishing a book describing techniques and practices, which set in motion a framework for a more caring form of dental provision.
In the 20th century, new dental techniques and technology were invented such as porcelain crowns (1903), Novocain (a local anesthetic) (1905), precision cast fillings (1907), nylon toothbrushes (1938), water fluoridation (1945), fluoride toothpaste (1950), air-driven dental tools (1957), lasers (1960), electric toothbrushes (1960) and home tooth bleaching kits (1989).
Several of the region’s dentists have used innovative techniques over the years to try and reduce that fear factor for patients.
In 1998, Clay Cross dentist John Davey introduced coloured braces to tie in with that summer’s World Cup in France.
Patients could don designer dentalwear in the yellow and green of Brazil, the red and white of England and even blue and white to represent Scotland.
Lee Worthington, a dentist at Firvale Dental Practice, was another who came up with a novel idea to help make a visit to the chair slightly less stressful. For he entertained youngsters during the practice’s 10th anniversary by demonstrating good brushing techniques – on a baby crocodile!
Of course, many of the country’s dentists learned their trade here.
The School of Clinical Dentistry is one of 11 dental schools in England recognised by the General Dental Council.
Sheffield Medical School is the oldest establishment of higher and professional education in the city and can trace its history back to 1828. It is now an integral part of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health of the University of Sheffield.