Next time you step into a dentist’s waiting room and feel those pre-appointment jitters, just think: It could be worse. You could be lying in this partially reclining chair, fenced in by a primitive X-ray machine and a chest of century-old hand tools. That’s the scene in one corner of TriState Family Dental Center’s lobby (960 S. Hebron Ave.), a nod to the history of the profession. For a dental practice that proclaims, “We cater to cowards,” it also reminds fearful patients just how far technology has evolved.
TriState dentist Dr. Mark Schymik says that a patient of his father, the late Dr. John Schymik, found the entire collection in Georgia and asked if the dentist would like it for his office. “What’s interesting is that a lot of older patients say, ‘I remember that,’” says Dr. Schymik, who’s practiced for 10 years. Not surprisingly, many are prone to dental anxiety. But these days, “(dental care) is much different,” says Dr. Schymik, “much more comfortable.”
1. Tool Time
Dr. Schymik estimates that this handpiece, powered by an electric motor, dates back to the 1870s. (Dental engines have been run by air turbines since the 1950s.) The chair hearkens back to the late 1800s or early 1900s; according to a history of dentistry by the American Dental Association, fully reclining chairs weren’t introduced until 1958.
2. Old School
This turn-of-the-century operatory once belonged to Dr. John Dickinson, a Massachusetts dentist who graduated from dental school and began practicing in 1900. His diploma hangs on the back wall.
3. Looking Through You
Years before the Wright brothers flew the first successful airplane or biologist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, dentists were peering into patients’ mouths with X-ray units such as this one. (The ADA timeline lists the nation’s first dental X-ray as occurring in 1896 in New Orleans.) The machine’s power supply is on the right wall, and near the machine is an early pair of magnifying glasses.
4. Tray Station
Before healthy patients were rewarded with “Cavity Free Kid” stickers, dentists passed out “My Teeth are OK” buttons. Also on the dentist’s tray: silk dental floss; a jar containing powder for silver fillings; and a fear-provoking forceps for tooth extraction. “The design has changed to make removals more efficient and less traumatic to the surrounding structures,” Dr. Schymik says.
TriState Family Dental Centers
960 S. Hebron Ave., (812) 473-1900
800 N. First Ave., (812) 425-4206