Profile America: Electric Dental Drill Patented

George F. Green, inventor of the dental drill. William J. Hammer Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

Thursday, January 24th. An invention that’s helped millions, but which no one really likes was patented this week in 1875—the electric dental drill. Those who dread the device should consider the primitive state of dental technology before George Green of Kalamazoo, Michigan was granted his patent. Existing drills were slowly powered by foot pedals pumped by the dentists.

Today, the whine of the dental drill—and that of the patient—is heard less often. Americans are generally taking better care of their teeth, helped by fluoridated water. As a result, the nation’s dentists are spending more time treating gum disease and poor tooth arrangement than in filling cavities. There are about 152,000 dentists nationwide, over 28,000 of them are women.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

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