What Dentist Chairs Used to Look Like

Everything changes given enough time and the medical industry today is one that changes very quickly. New equipment and methods are being designed all the time. One of the oldest medical professions is that of dentistry. Long before your GP could prescribe effective treatments, dentists were pulling rotten teeth and even drilling out cavities to prevent serious illness and infection from tooth decay. Some of the dentist chairs, though, are not at all what you would see in dental practices these days.

The chair above from the 1700s was modified from a barber’s chair to a dentist’s chair. At the time barbers also functioned as crude surgeons and doctors, administering bloodlettings and leaches among other archaic medical treatments. Some also performed tooth extractions, which almost never had anesthesia of any kind. Notice the inverse half circle to allow for the patient’s neck. That couldn’t have been comfortable.

This chair is also wooden and doesn’t look all that relaxing, but has a new reclining feature which was hopefully less painful on the patient’s neck.

Just imagine having your teeth pulled in the glamorous velvet chair above! The carved seat seems as though it might recline and clearly has a very Victorian style to it. This must have been a wealthy dental office to have equipment like this.

The Victorian dentist chair above must have been top of the line, with a leather seat and back, reclining features, and even a foot rest for the patients.

The elaborate chair above is also Victorian and features an iron frame, rattan footrest, and red velvet upholstery and headrest. This, too, much have been found in an upscale dentist’s office.

Much like treadle sewing machines of the 19th century, dental drills were operated by foot crank. Just imagine how slow that might have been! Yowch. At the time, some dentists would set up shop at the local pharmacy, as seen here in this scene.

This dentist chair reclines, but is all wood and probably wasn’t all that comfortable for long procedures. The drill next to it is made of iron, but mercifully looks like it could be electric.

The photo above shows dental hygienists working on kids side by side in 1920. Again, it looks like those are some pretty uncomfortable wooden chairs. None of us prefer the dentist over other activities, but we sure are thankful for all the modern comforts the dentist office has today.

Like its predecessors, this chair features an iron frame, leather seat, and rattan back. However, the lights are very elegant: two glass globes on an ornamented metal stand.

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