painless parker

Painless Dentistry?

The photograph shows a promotion orchestrated by Painless Parker, a turn-of-the-century dentist who teamed up with a former P.T. Barnum promoter to help promote his services. He would profess to be able to painlessly extract teeth and would organize demonstrations with a band present. When it was time for his presentation, after giving his patient a shot of whisky and an injection of a watered down cocaine solution, the band would start playing in order to drown out any of his patient’s screams!

Dentistry has come a long way since then and it  is a mostly painless experience, at least after anesthetic is properly administered. With a number of types of local anesthetics available (lidocaine, mepivicane, articaine…) and many different types of injections (mandibular block, infiltration, palatal, intraligamental, posterior superior block) most people will not experience much pain if their dentist is patient enough to achieve a sufficient level of anesthesia. This wasn’t always the case, which is probably why dentists developed a reputation for causing their patients pain.

That being the case, dentists are actually credited with the developing inhalant anesthesia. Two Connecticut dentists, Horace Wells (Nitrous oxide) and William Morton (ether), pioneered using inhalants to provide painless dentistry in the eighteen forties. Unfortunately for Wells, his demonstration, at Mass General, didn’t go well and he was disgraced. It was only after his former partner successfully demonstrated ether anesthesia,  at the same hospital,  did  anesthesia become generally utilized by M.D.s performing surgeries.

Although Wells didn’t get his due credit during his lifetime, his idea has taken hold today and  dentists still use of Nitrous Oxide to make patients more comfortable and nowadays it is safer than ever since analgesia machines have fail-safe mechanisms that will not allow delivery of nitrous oxide without the proper mixture of life supporting oxygen.


Posted 24th January by

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