Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Pierre Fauchard (1678–1761), dentistry’s founding father

Brody Fogleman
Cristin Grant
Harsh Jha
Noel Brownlee
Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States


Pierre Fauchard (1678–1761)

Dr. Pierre Fauchard was a French surgeon and dentist who worked in Paris.1 He is widely accepted as the father of dentistry because of his many important contributions to the discipline and is particularly well-known for his work Le Chirurgien Dentiste (The Surgeon Dentist).

Before the publication of Le Chirurgien Dentiste, dentistry had not been recognized as a distinct medical discipline.2 Dental procedures were usually carried out by non-professional tradesmen.2,3 Instruments were not sterilized, increasing the risk of infections and post-procedure necrosis,4 and materials and medications available for tooth repair were limited. Fauchard noted the products used to clean teeth were harmful, as they were composed of acids, pumice, and alum, which commonly destroyed the enamel.4 This realization prompted Fauchard to make his own product to clean teeth, strengthen gums, and not damage enamel.4

Until the mid-nineteenth century, too, anesthesia was not commonly used in dental practice.5 Conducting invasive dental procedures without anesthesia caused extreme discomfort and pain for patients, discouraging them from seeking care.5 Collectively, these practices created a significant negative social impression, suggesting that dentistry was associated with dangerous and unnecessary procedures that exacerbated oral health issues.3 Fauchard’s contributions challenged and dispelled these perceptions by introducing science-based practices to dentistry. He gained much-needed respect for both himself and the profession by publishing Le Chirurgien Dentiste,6 which included his observations, findings, theories, and techniques, setting a foundation for dentistry to establish itself as a component to other aspects of healthcare.1 The techniques he developed and that were adapted to modern practice include dental protheses, treatment of tooth decay, and regular oral cleansing.7 Fauchard is likewise renowned for his significant contributions to the field of orthodontics8 and is widely recognized as its founder, as he was the first to prove that teeth could be repositioned with the help of a specially designed device.8

Le Chirurgien Dentiste was influential in initiating the idea that dental care was more complex than previously thought and thus required distinction as its own field of medicine. The book also suggested that competency in practice was necessary to obtain the best outcomes. While Fauchard’s work did not have an immediate global impact, it did refine the local perception of dentistry, leading to an increased respect and value for the profession it would soon become.1 The founding of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1840, the first dental college in the world,9 was also an important indirect result of Fauchard’s work. It made an emphatic proclamation to the world that the US was in pursuit of significant medical advances.

Collectively, these events mark a turning point in the professionalization of dentistry, indicating that the discipline was undergoing fundamental transformation, scope refinement, and promoting its status from a trade to a formal branch of medicine. The western world’s acceptance of Fauchard’s framework of dentistry further reinforced the compelling evidence he had provided.1

Today, Fauchard is remembered by many as the founder of dentistry. Specifically, the Pierre Fauchard Academy was founded in 1936 by Dr. Elmer S. Best to honor Dr. Fauchard and assist the dental profession in developing a new standard of excellence in its medical literacy.10,11 Similar to Fauchard’s formalization of dentistry in his era, Dr. Best also helped advance the profession. The Pierre Fauchard Academy now consists of about 11,000 members worldwide and continues to train and educate future dental professionals.10 Each year, it selects one person to receive the Fauchard Gold Medal Award, an honor for those who have contributed significantly to the advancement of the dental discipline.10


  1. Viau G. The Life of Pierre Fauchard (1678-1761). Dent Regist. 1923;77(8):337-356.
  2. Spielman AI. The Birth of the Most Important 18th Century Dental Text: Pierre Fauchard’s Le Chirurgien Dentist. J Dent Res. 2007;86(10):922-926. doi:10.1177/154405910708601004
  3. Ring ME. Quackery in Dentistry — Past and Present. Journal of the California Dental Association. 1998;26(11):818-824. doi:10.1080/19424396.1998.12221737
  4. Fischman SL. The history of oral hygiene products: how far have we come in 6000 years? Periodontol 2000. 1997;15(1):7-14. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0757.1997.tb00099.x
  5. Hamarneh S. Dental exhibition & reference collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Health Serv Rep. 1972;87(4):291-303.
  6. Baron P. The development of dentistry, 1000–2000. The Lancet. 1999;354:SIV11. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(99)90354-9
  7. Denton GB. THE MOST FAMOUS DENTAL BOOK. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1935;24(2):113-123.
  8. Philippe J. Pierre Fauchard the “inventor” of orthodontics. J Dentofacial Anom Orthod. 2011;14(1):104. doi:10.1051/odfen/2011103
  9. Rossomando EF, Moura M. The Role of Science and Technology in Shaping the Dental Curriculum. Journal of Dental Education. 2008;72(1):19-25. doi:10.1002/j.0022-0337.2008.72.1.tb04448.x
  10. Pierre Fauchard Academy. Overview – Pierre Fauchard Academy. Published online April 4, 2023. https://www.fauchard.org/about-pfa/about-pierre-fauchard-academy/overview
  11. Lynch CD, O’Sullivan VR, McGillycuddy CT. Pierre Fauchard: the “Father of Modern Dentistry.” Br Dent J. 2006;201(12):779-781. doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.4814350

Background and further reading

  • Benzian H, Hobdell M, Holmgren C, et al. Political priority of global oral health: an analysis of reasons for international neglect. Int Dent J. 2011;61(3):124-130. doi:10.1111/j.1875-595X.2011.00028.x
  • Bristow W. Enlightenment. In: Zalta EN, ed. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Fall 2017. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University; 2017. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/enlightenment/
  • Dominguez TM, Dame M, Schmidt RN, Greenhill RG, Dayama N. The US Medicaid Dental Insurance Coverage Gap: Access Issues Persist for Millions of its Citizens. Journal of Business and Behavioral Sciences. 33(2):89-102.
  • Fellows JL, Atchison KA, Chaffin J, Chávez EM, Tinanoff N. Oral Health in America. J Am Dent Assoc. 2022;153(7):601-609. doi:10.1016/j.adaj.2022.04.002
  • Haumschild MS, Haumschild RJ. The Importance of Oral Health in Long-Term Care. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2009;10(9):667-671. doi:10.1016/j.jamda.2009.01.002
  • Jacob MC. The Secular Enlightenment. Princeton University Press; 2019.
  • McGrath J, Martin KC. The Modernization of the Western World: A Society Transformed. 2nd ed. Routledge; 2017. doi:10.4324/9781315157795



BRODY M. FOGLEMAN earned his BS in biomedical engineering from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2021. He is currently a second-year medical student pursuing his doctorate in osteopathic medicine at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine – Carolinas Campus (VCOM).

CRISTIN B. GRANT earned her BS in Biological Sciences from the University of South Carolina in 2021. She is currently a second-year medical student pursuing her doctorate in osteopathic medicine at VCOM.

HARSH JHA is a University of Florida alum and current third-year medical student pursuing his doctorate in osteopathic medicine at VCOM.

DR. NOEL BROWNLEE earned his PhD in cancer biology at the Medical University of South Carolina and his MD from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, followed by graduate medical education in anatomic and clinical pathology at Duke, Wake Forest, and Johns Hopkins. He is currently Professor and Chair of Pathology at VCOM.


Spring 2023  |  Sections  |  Surgery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.