Saturday, February 2, 2013

Famous Penn dental graduates: W.D. Miller and F.S. McKay

In 1890, W.D. Miller proposed the chemico-parasitic theory of caries pathogenesis in his book “The Micro-organisms of the Mouth”. This is how we understand caries and mineral dissolution now.

Caries is brought about by acid dissolution of the mineral phase of the teeth, the acid being produced by metabolism of dietary carbohydrates by oral bacteria.

Dr. Willoughby Dayton Miller also happens to be a University of Pennsylvania dental school graduate. He received his DDS from Penn in 1879.

In addition, Dr. Frederick S. McKay, who discovered the revolutionary finding that adding fluoride to your water supply can strengthen your enamel, is a Penn dental graduate of 1900. He observed the browning and mottling effect of too much fluoride. He was originally an orthodontist!

penngradsPicture of Miller, Picture of McKay

Also while looking through the Penn Dental Journal archives I found this from the 1901 issue:

Prices in the Klondike are very high for everything. A man recently returned from there related that a dentist charged him only $2 for extracting a tooth… but if the patient wanted the aching one taken out it would cost him $10.

Back then extracting a tooth cost $2! But only if it was the non-aching one?…

These are big names in our field that have transformed modern dentistry! I heard about these scientists before starting dental school but didn’t know they were Penn dental graduates.

Dentistry would be nothing without our basic understanding of how caries happen and our knowledge that caries are preventable. I love that Penn dental has this great long history of producing amazing thinkers. These great scientists walked in the very same hallways we walk through now… maybe some of their ingenuity will rub off on me.


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