Ruspini, James Bladen (1768-1840)
Observations on the importance and use of human and artificial teeth (1802)
James Bladen Ruspini is the oldest son of the famous surgeon-dentist Chevalier Bartholomew William Ruspini who is the dentist of the Prince of Wales (the future George IV) and Elizabeth Orde. Born in England two years after his father became the surgeon dentist to the royals, he got educated as a Surgeon and later the diseases of the teeth under the tutelage of M. Catalan, a celebrated Surgeon Dentist in Paris. In the 1790s, he is in Baths to expand his father’s Dentifrice Powder and Tincture business.
Observations on the importance and use of human and artificial teeth was first published in 1799. The eleven-page pamphlet was initially distributed free of charge at his house on South Bridge Street and through his father’s medicine vendors.
The book is a good example of how dental health promotion was presented back in the late 18th and early 19th century. He emphasized the importance of teeth including the mastication, aesthetics, and phonation function of teeth and promoted disease prevention. Recommended regular cleaning of one’s teeth, focusing on both dentitions. He recognizes that “tartars” on the teeth will erode the teeth unless they are removed “by the hand of an experienced operator”. The pamphlet explained how tartar on the teeth may cause gum diseases, and describes materials used for filling teeth. He contends that pregnant women are more likely to get inflamed gums. When one loses a tooth, especially front tooth, it is important to get a replacement as soon as possible because the other teeth will drift.
This book not only informed the public about basic dental health promotion, but also served to introduce a more systematic approach to dental diseases and their treatment. Nevertheless, it served to advertise Ruspini’s dentifrice as well.
Based on research done by Jingyi Yang, class of 2025 as part of her assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2021-2022. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.