Le Dentiste Observateur – The Observing Dentist - 1798 (2d ed.)

Le Dentiste Observateur


Paul Augustin Olivier Mahon

Paul Augustin Olivier Mahon was born on April 6, 1752 in Chartres, France. He was the son of a physician who trained young Paul. He is admitted to the Royal Society of Medicine. These are not good times for royalties, being in the midst of the French Revolution (1789). Nevertheless, after the revolution in 1794 he is named chief of the hospital for venereal disease at the School of Health and placed in charge for two courses one in legal medicine and a second history of medicine.

In 1797 Mahon publishes Le Dentiste Observateur by illustrating various patient interactions he engaged in throughout his career. This case-study format is an overarching theme throughout the work. Mahon uses vivid scenarios, attention to details to captivate the reader. The work was divided into three parts. The first part focuses on care of primary and permanent teeth, along with the eruption patter of teeth, prevention of and complications of wisdom tooth extraction and characteristics of a good dentist.

Further, Mahon describes dental structures, including the pulp and enamel. His work has a component that appears to involve dental public health. He suggests a possible association between exposures to certain environmental factors (food, fluids) and dental health/disease). For example, he described people born in countries which utilize wine or cider. He describes a high prevalence of gray, cracked and dry enamel to be associated with the consumption of these fluids. Mahon later elaborates on dental erosion as well.

The second part of Le Dentiste Observateur illustrates Mahon’s hope for dental education in the future. He illustrates possible curriculum innovations to educate future dental health professionals. He suggests appointment of a chief of surgery to dental schools. Mahon suggests this chief of surgery would be responsible for educating potential students on the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The chief of surgery would also proctor students as they perform operations. It is important to remember that dental education was not formalized in schools for another 42 years (Baltimore, 1840).

In the third and final part of Le Dentiste Observateur, Mahon encourages members of the healthcare profession from medical doctors to chiropractors to reserve time out of their professional practices to record their respective observations. Mahon describes the relationship between oral health and total health by stating, from all this it follows that the mouth must be viewed as the barometer of health.

Based in part on research done by Fareed Tareen, class of 2022 as part of their assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2018-2019. Part of this biography is based on Dictionnaire des sciences medicales. Biographie medicale, vol 6, p 156, Paris : Panckoucke, 1824. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.

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