Jacques Rene Duval (1758-1854)

Le Dentiste de la jeunesse (The Youth’s Dentist), 1805.

Le Dentiste de la jeunesse (The Youth’s Dentist), 1805.

Born in Argentan, France on November 12th, 1758, Jacques Rene Duval was the son of a master locksmith. He was trained to become a master surgeon. Among his works, his most notable was “Le Dentiste de la jeunesse, ou Moyens d'avoir les dents belles et bonnes” (The Youth's Dentist, or the Way to Have Sound and Beautiful Teeth”), published in 1805.

 As a student in Paris, Duval studied with Francoise Chopart and was chosen to assist Jean le Rond d’Alembert, a famous French mathematician, philosopher, and physicist, in the last months of his life. On November 12th, 1786 he became a master surgeon of the company of Saint Come in Paris with his thesis Anevrysmate Varicoso. Duval married Francoise De la Faudignere, daughter of LeRoy de la Faudignere, a French dentist, well known for his analgesic elixir. He followed in his father in law’s footsteps.

Following his service in the National Guard Service in 1793, Duval also worked as a doctor. Following the French Revolution, Duval treated several hundred patients including many with small pox with few fatalities. Duval was a member of the Paris Medical Society and an associate member of the Paris Faculty of Medicine. In 1821, he was elected a member of the Academy of Medicine and in 1853, at the age of 95, was made a member of the Paris Surgical Society.

In his book Le Dentiste de la jeunesse, Duval includes everything the layman would need to know to protect their oral cavity. Duval offers insights into what attention the teeth require and simple terms better understood by the public. In the first four chapters, Duval covers the general characteristics of teeth, primary dentition, secondary dentition, and proper maintenance / cleaning of teeth. He explains the the need for frequent dental examinations and the importance of proper arrangement and alignment of teeth, the significance of cleaning teeth to maintain their structural and aesthetic integrity. The last four chapters covers the diseases of teeth, operations relative to the teeth, and examination of prejudices associated with caring for teeth.  He points out that tobacco smoking could negatively impacting one's oral health.

Based on research done by Joubin Vafamansouri, class of 2025 as part of her assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2021-2022. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.

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