Le Chirurgien Dentist
1728, 1746 and 1786
Pierre Fauchard (1678-1761) is considered the father of modern dentistry. His seminal book, Le Chirurgien Dentiste, ou Traité des Dents (1728), is the discipline's first complete work. During the five years preceding its publication (1723-1728), Pierre Fauchard sought the opinions, contributions, and "approbation" (approval) of 19 of his colleagues: six illustrious royal physicians, 12 leading surgeons of his time and one dentist.
Fauchard's education began at age 15, in 1693, while serving as a young naval surgeon apprentice to Alexandre Poteleret, surgeon-in-chief to His Majesty's ships. As Fauchard witnessed the ravaging effect of scurvy on the dentition of sailors, he became interested in dentistry. Fauchard never completed his training as a surgeon, due to lack of funds. Dentistry, in contrast, did not require a costly apprenticeship. His experience with Poteleret was more than many practicing dentists had at the time. He became a dental surgeon, initially in Angers, Tours, Rennes, and finally, starting in 1718, in Paris.
His book is a compilation of the knowledge of dentistry at the turn of the 18th century. No doubt many of his observations were from first-hand experience. His manuscript has many original elements, such as the description of tooth dysplasia (dentinogenesis imperfecta), and descriptions of cysts, which Fauchard linked to caries lesions. However, its most important attribute was its systematic, scientific, and comprehensive character—its amazing thoroughness—a first for dentistry. Through the book, Fauchard established a new profession that, until that time, was practiced by an assortment of other professionals
The publication of Le Chirurgien Dentiste was more daring than one can imagine today. Fauchard was seeking to gain access to a professional elite, a society that was separated by financial and social castes. Furthermore, he was seeking approval from the very same physicians who were at the top of the societal hierarchy, looking down on surgeons and dentists, respectively. Fauchard was trying to move dentistry into a "privileged" environment. In achieving the recommendation of 19 established professionals, 18 of whom were not in the dental field, he obtained entry to history.