Your muscles tense. Your fists clench. A cold sweat beads across your brow line… As your goggled, masked dentist moves in with his whistling drill… and his fear.

But the Novocain’s kicked in by this point, and all it is, is a little prodding and pulling. But that noise, that horrifying noise of the drill stays with you, doesn’t it. Well here’s food for thought – dental drills and tools have come a long way in the past century, and it should comfort all of us that we’re no longer relying on “cat-gut bowstrings” and hand cranks to power today’s drills. I’m sorry, did you say cat-gut bowstrings??

Let’s examine a little industry ingenuity…

John Greenwood, President George Washington’s dentist, continued on earlier innovation by inventing a “dental foot engine” in the late 18th century. He apparently is also the man responsible for Georgie boy’s famous fake teeth. Legend precedes us in tales of wooden teeth, but it is said that the material used for Washington’s replacement chompers was from the tusks of hippopotamus! I’m gonna leave that one alone for now.

Pierre Fauchard, and 18th century French doctor who is widely considered the “father of modern dentistry”. Fauchard authored a detailed scientific description of dentistry, including specifics on oral anatomy, oral pathology, and “operative methods” for tooth removal.

John Lewis. John invented a hand-crank drill bit in the 19th century that was almost absolutely the most cumbersome medical tool ever thought up. You had to hand-crank the drill bit, while operating with the drill bit. Just stay away from me now John, you hear me!

Today’s modern “handpieces” have come a long way since a foot-pump-powered drill. Yikes. The high-speed drills dentists use today are highly advanced for the types of precision work they perform. Today’s drills rotate at a ridiculous rate of around 250,000 RPM. Divided by six, carry the two, remainder the dividend… and holy smokes, that drill’s spinning 4,000 times per second! Good luck foot pumping at that rate! Old Johnny Greenwood’s toes would fly right off if he hit those speeds on his trusty footpump.