Cocaine, together with its significant benefits and significant addiction potential, was discovered in the late 19th century (1884 to 1885). Dentists were quick to put cocaine to work for their patients to numb previously excruciating dental work. Citations from vintage publications illustrate the importance of this discovery, attitudes that surrounded cocaine’s use in dentistry and medicine, and the ease with which patients (and parents) accepted the use.
While researching dentistry in 1890 for an accurate setting for my title, Isabella’s Calico Groom, I was quite surprised by how advanced and “modern” (by today’s standards) dentistry was. Significant advances in dentistry had occurred in the previous decades, making dentistry truly “modern” compared to patients’ previous experiences. The sheer quantity and magnitude of improvements in dentistry qualify dentists of the 1890s to claim “Modern Dentistry” in their advertisements.