Pier Foshar

Pier Foshar

Country: France

  1. Biography of Pierre Fauchard
  2. Studying Dentistry in Paris
  3. Revolutionizing Dentistry
  4. Achievements and Legacy

Biography of Pierre Fauchard

Pierre Fauchard, a French physician and dentist, was born in Angers in 1678. He grew up in a modest family, with his father working as a clerk in a law firm and his mother raising five children. From a young age, Pierre developed an interest in medicine. His father always told him that a doctor would never go hungry, as they are always needed by people in times of war, peace, holidays, and weekdays. Pierre was also fascinated by the appearance of a doctor's office, the grand role given to the doctor when visiting a patient, the bottles and vials filled with aromatic solutions, and the gleaming instruments.

Following his father's advice, Pierre pursued a career in medicine. At the age of 15, after completing a two-year course, he became a surgeon. His practice was so successful that he was soon invited to work at a naval hospital, which was a prestigious and lucrative position at that time. Pierre performed surgeries to remove abscesses, reset dislocated joints, amputate gangrenous limbs, and extract teeth. However, no amount of success and wealth could quench Pierre's desire for a vibrant life filled with lights, festive fireworks, and the laughter of high society ladies. He believed that he needed to go to Paris to experience all of this.

Studying Dentistry in Paris

Fauchard came up with a plan to conquer the capital: he decided to leave general surgery behind and immerse himself in the study and practice of dentistry. He believed that this would open the door to the upper echelons of society, as the poor did not have their teeth treated or prosthetics made. His teacher in this field was Alexander Poteler, the chief surgeon of the royal fleet, renowned for his dental talents and prestigious clientele.

Fauchard was captivated and inspired by the field of dentistry. He meticulously studied ancient "dental atlases" discovered during excavations in the Phoenician city of Sidon in the 4th to 3rd centuries BC. He examined the drawings of artificial teeth made from animal bones and human teeth, which were attached to neighboring teeth using gold or silver wire. He also studied reports of excavations in the city of Tarquinia, where prosthetics made from artificial teeth and a series of gold rings, which were attached to healthy neighboring teeth, were found in Etruscan tombs. He read textbooks on dental craftsmanship written by Roman barbers and jewelers, as they were the ones who practiced tooth prosthesis in ancient Rome. However, Fauchard paid special attention to the treatises of the famous Arab surgeon Abul-Qasim, who was one of the first to declare that dentistry is a branch of medicine, as it helps cure ailments and correct defects. Fauchard's views were supported by the works of French dentists, who were always driven to improve their craft by the refined manners of French court life.

Revolutionizing Dentistry

Fauchard was not content with just being a skillful tooth extractor. He invented the concept of dental prosthetics as we know it today. He proposed the use of fixing prosthetic springs made from thickened gold wire or spirals. At that time, there were no impressions or palatal plates, and these springs allowed for flexible installation of dental prostheses, taking into account the individual characteristics of the patient. Previously, this problem had been solved in a monstrous way. As Fauchard describes it, "Some doctors drill holes into the jawbones of patients and insert gold wire, a method that speaks more of the courage of the surgeons than their wisdom." Fauchard used fallen teeth, ivory, walrus tusks, and hippopotamus tusks as materials for prostheses. He carefully matched the color of the inserted tooth, for which Parisian ladies were willing to pay exorbitant fees and wait for an appointment with him for months, if not years. He also invented post teeth and devised methods for anchoring interconnected teeth on one or two posts, which served as prototypes for modern bridges. Another important invention by Fauchard was driven by cosmetic considerations. To give ivory teeth a more natural appearance, he covered them with gold caps, onto which layers of fired porcelain enamel of various colors were applied. This laid the foundation for the production of artificial porcelain teeth. Fauchard also improved Paré's obturators by replacing the sponge with movable "appendages" made of ivory, resembling wings, which connected to the palatal plate (the appendages were inserted vertically into the nasal cavity and, with the help of a special screw, could be moved into a horizontal position to hold the palatal plate in place). Fauchard also popularized the use of metal plates for correcting bites.

Achievements and Legacy

Fauchard was not only a brilliant dentist but also a wealthy man. He led a measured and respectable life, with a sharp wit and an unbreakable routine. It is said that once he was summoned from a theater performance at the Comédie-Française. The first counselor to the king had been suffering from toothache for several weeks and was now climbing the walls. Fauchard did not leave the theater, and the next day he explained his position: "A dentist, who usually deals with a patient in great pain, should not panic. A tooth that has been ruined cannot be restored hastily." In his reception area on Rue de Cordeliers, trained secretaries sat behind several desks, meticulously recording appointments. The registration books contain hundreds of names, most of whom were a source of pride for the French nation. Regardless of what happened in the waiting room, Fauchard never broke the established order. The large number of patients led Fauchard to consider opening a dental workshop. He hired skilled jewelers and trained them in medical books and anatomical atlases. Only after passing an examination were they entrusted with the secrets of the craft. From the accounting books of this workshop, which bore his name, we know that up to 1,000 dentures were produced each year. For particularly important clients, Fauchard himself created the dental prostheses. It is known that he made several post teeth using a special technique exclusively from precious materials for Madame de Pompadour, each of which cost the French treasury 100 louis d'or (the price of a valuable diamond ring).

Fauchard rarely made house calls, citing the need for his office equipment: a chair securely fastened to the floor, a system of small mirrors designed according to his drawings, burners for boiling and preparing various liquids, and special lighting for precise direction, which he also invented using lenses and mirrors. However, in rare and exceptional cases, he would go to the patient's location, sometimes even accompanied by his wife (Fauchard married Elizabeth-Guimette Chemin in 1729 when he was already a well-known and wealthy dentist. In 1737, they had a son, Jean-Baptiste Fauchard, who became a lawyer in parliament and a councilor to the king in the admiralty). One of his regular patients was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was extremely impatient and nervous. To distract his attention, Fauchard's wife would recite verses by Ronsard.

However, Fauchard's old age was troubled. He obtained a decree from the king granting him and his children the title of nobility. However, his younger son, after earning enough money to buy out taxes, unexpectedly followed the example of his maternal ancestors and became an actor at the Comédie-Française. He even independently produced a one-act comic opera called "The Merry Shoemaker" for the theater. Dr. Fauchard loved the theater but wanted a more serious career for his son. He was distraught that he would not have a successor. In 1738, Pierre Fauchard became a widower and remarried nine years later at the age of 70 to Catherine Russelo, a lady from high society and the second cousin of his deceased wife. The remaining years of Fauchard's life were clouded by endless legal battles. Catherine aggressively sued him over the inheritance of another one of her aunts, which was left to her deceased son, with Fauchard as the guardian. These intense family disputes completely overshadowed the last years of the great prosthetist. In 1761, Fauchard passed away, leaving his family a vast fortune and a legacy. He left behind the stereotype that a prosthetist is an elite and highly expensive doctor capable of restoring what nature once took away: teeth.