There’s no easy answer to the question of “Who was the first periodontist in history?” since there have been so many people contributing so much to the field in so many ways, without specializing in periodontics. One could argue that Abulcasis was the first periodontist since his medical encyclopedia, Kitab al-Tasrif which was published around the year 1000, contains designs for tools to scale teeth in order to prevent periodontal disease. Sticklers for specialization, however, might say that John Mankey Riggs is the first periodontist since he decided to focus his practice specifically on periodontics in the 1800s and even got periodontal diseased named after him as “Rigg’s Disease”.
At Worcester Periodontics we choose not to try and decided who was the first, but rather show appreciation for all of those that contributed to the field of periodontics. In addition to the two mentioned above, here are some other notable people who contributed to the field:
- Bartolomeo Eustachi – Bartolomeo was an Italian anatomist that lived during the Renaissance. He published Libellus de dentibus which was focused on the anatomy of the teeth. In this book he discusses scaling as a preventive measure against gum disease as well as what today would be described as root planing.
- Ambroise Paré – While Ambroise was known generally as a surgeon during the Renaissance, he had also developed surgery techniques for the gums. One of the surgeries he developed was gingivectomy.
- Pierre Fauchard – No List of historical figures in dentistry would be complete without mention of Pierre Fauchard. He started his career as a combat medic in the French Navy during the 1690s but went on to become a dentist and publish Le Chirurgien Dentiste. His work was revolutionary, helping the transition from the reputation of barber-dentist tooth pullers to dental specialists that would work on preserving teeth instead of pulling them. Just like Abulcasis before him, he recognized the importance of scaling for gum health and developed tools for it.
- Grace Rogers Spalding – Last but not least we have Grace Rogers Spalding, one of the founders of the what would later be know as the American Academy of Periodontology in 1914. Just like John Mankey Riggs she decided to specialize in periodontics but went one step further by creating the AAP to help establish the field.
We feel thankful towards all of these historical figures for giving us the knowledge and tools that enable us to help our patients at Worcester Periodontics.