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The History of the Dental Hygienist

added on: June 27, 2018

Early dentists (usually barbers whose duties extended beyond hair to the mouth) worked for many years without trained assistants. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1880s that “dental nurses” began advising patients on preventive care and oral hygiene—a role that dental hygienists at Caring Smiles continue today, along with a variety of other responsibilities. Today, we want to take a closer look at the history of the dental hygienist and how they work to keep your teeth healthy and strong.

A tangible clear light bulb set inside a white thinking bubble draw on a black chalkboard indicating a new idea

A New Idea: Dental Hygiene

From the ancient beginnings of dentistry until the turn of the twentieth century, folks primarily visited dentists when they needed teeth pulled. Preventive care (which we recognize today as brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and getting professional dental cleanings and checkups) was relatively unknown. In the late 1800s, scientists realized that bacterias cause tooth decay. Unfortunately, this discovery didn’t immediately revolutionize the practice of dentistry because dentists had little time to devote to actually cleaning teeth. They were too busy extracting rotten teeth! That is, until a young dentist named Alfred Fones decided to train his cousin, Irene Newman, to clean teeth in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The First Dental Hygienist: Irene Newman

In 1907, Newman performed her duties as a dental hygienist for the first time. A few years later, Fones and Newman opened a school dedicated to teaching others how to properly clean teeth. The state of Connecticut later honored Newman by granting her the very first license to practice dental hygiene. In fact, Newman was so successful at keeping the teeth of local residents clean and healthy (which promotes strong immunity) that Bridgeport had the lowest death rate of any large city during the 1918 influenza outbreak!

Modern-Day: Our Dental Hygienists

Today, our highly-trained dental hygienists follow in the footsteps of Irene Newman. Professional cleaning, along with other at-home preventive care methods, will help protect you from many serious oral health conditions and save you future pain and money. To ask any questions about our exceptional team of dental hygienists or to schedule your next biannual cleaning, contact our office today.


Like Irene Newman, our expert dental hygienists will keep your smile clean and healthy. Come visit our office every 6 months!

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