A Treatise on the Disorders and Deformities of the Teeth and Gums – 1768 (1st, 2d and 3d editions)
Thomas Berdmore (1740-1785)
Thomas Berdmore is one of the most important authors of early English dental literature. It was published 80 years after Charles Allen’s short but concise study of the “Operator for the Teeth”. Berdmore was a member of the Surgeon’s Company and Dentists and he served as personal dentist to King George III. The book was the first attempt to cover the entire field of dentistry in the English language.
Thomas Berdmore was not just a writer and practitioner, he also apprenticed others in the profession, including Robert Wooffendale, one of the very first to practice dentistry in the Americas (in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia from 1766-1768). His student, Wooffendale was credited to have made the first set of dentures in America for one “William Walton of New York”. Berdmore’s practice and royal connection brought him wealth. On his marble epitaph in the church of St Mary the Virgin one can read the following inscription:
Near this Place
Lies interr’d the Body of
THOMAS BERDMORE Esq.
Who acquired a liberal
And ample Fortune
By the Profession of Dentist;
He died the 7th of Novr 1785,
aged 45 Years.
It is noteworthy that Pierre Fauchard’s seminal book already had seen two editions (1728 and 1746) in France and one in German (1733, but it had to wait until 1946 to be translated into English. Although Berdmore knew of the French publications, the lack of widely available translations led him to fill a void. His book had seen five editions between 1768 and 1777. Our copy is a first edition. We also possess 4 more editions (1769 second, 1770, third, 1771 first German ed., and 1844).
His book, A Treatise on the Disorders and Deformities of the Teeth and Gums, has 278 pages and is divided in 3 parts and a total of 32 chapters. Part one describes the anatomy of the teeth, part two describes the diseases and cures, and part three describes prevention methods. Quite ahead of his time, Berdmore knew that sugar was bad for teeth. Throughout his study Berdmore emphasizes his own experience and position on certain techniques. His intention is to address the average person, not just the professionals. This is largely due to his belief that good teeth control both nourishment to aesthetics and have an effect on one’s quality of life, quite forward looking ideas.
This book provides a comprehensive look into disorders and deformities of the gums and teeth and presents methods of prevention, care and cure from early years in life to old age. The copy we possess, is a first, but have 2d and 3d editions The latter ones represents enlarged editions and a worthy detour for anyone curious about the status of oral care in the second half of the 18th century.
(Based on research and essay by Manal Tareen, class of 2024 as part of her assignment in the Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry Course Fall 2020). Edited by Andrew I Spielman.