Essay d'Odontotechnie ou Dissertation sur les Dents Artificielles

Claude Mouton

Claude Mouton


Claude Mouton was a surgeon and dentist in Paris at a time when Fauchard published his seminal book, Le Chirurgien Dentist. We do not know much about Mouton's early life or for that matter his year of birth. He was a pioneer for the development and use of the gold crown and is one of the first contributors to the field of prosthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. His 1746 book, "Essay d'odontotechnie, ou, dissertation sur les dents artificielles" (1746), is entirely dedicated to prosthetic dentistry. As was the custom, publications had to be endorsed by colleagues. Mouton's book was endorsed by only one surgeon, Jean-Jacques Bruhier, as opposed to 19 for Fauchard's seminar work. Incidentally, among those 19, in 1728 Mouton endorsed Fauchard's first edition.

Mouton's work paved the way for other pioneers of technical innovations such as Nicholas Dubois de Chemant, responsible for the porcelain tooth, and John Greenwood, one of several dentists that treated George Washington and introduced the foot pedal-powered dental drill. Mouton is responsible for the term "odontotechnie". Even though his book had not seen a second edition during his lifetime, it was an important contribution of French dentistry along with work by Robert Bunon (1746), Étienne Bourdet (1757), Louis Lécluze (1754), and Anselme Jourdain (1778).

In "Essay d'odontotechnie, ou, Dissertation sur les dents artificielles", Mouton introduced the idea of restoring grossly decayed teeth by covering them with a swedged gold crown. He recommended the use of the gold-shell crown on molars. For anterior teeth where visibility of gold could be objectionable, a layer of enamel was suggested to improve cosmetic appearance. The idea of providing restorative treatment designed to be also aesthetically pleasing was revolutionary at the time. It took 123 more years for a St Louis, Missouri dentist, to describe the application of Mouton's gold shell crown for a patient. The 1869 publication of the article "A New Operation" in the Missouri Dental Journal, W.N. Morrison sparked the field of fixed prosthodontics.

Perhaps Mouton's ideas were ahead of his time. Mouton's technical innovations and esthetic concerns were not met with the success it deserves during his lifetime. The industrial revolution and public demand for esthetic restorations were many decades away.

Based in part on research done by Stella Park, class of 2021 as part of their assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2017-2018. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.

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