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Sindecuse Museum

Inside the Dental Practice: 1860-1940






A transformative era in the history of the dental profession

Inside the Dental Practice: 1860-1940 focuses on the ground-breaking advances and developments that revolutionized the world of dentistry and its role in American society, including innovations such as anesthesia, dental hygiene, sterilization, fluoridation and the growth of dental education and professionalism.

Showcasing the evolution of dentistry throughout the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, the exhibit features historical dental practices from four eras: 1860-1890, 1890-1915, 1915-1930, and 1930-1940. The dental office displays illustrate dentistry’s progression from a belittled trade, practiced by blacksmiths, barbers and quacks, to a respected and technologically advanced health profession.

Complementary displays featuring the stories of X-rays in dentistry and the dental laboratory highlight both the technological advances of the profession as well as the behind-the-scenes work of American dentists. New medical discoveries and growing competition compelled dentists to incorporate dental radiology and laboratory techniques into their practices. The exhibit examines the progression of the X-ray from dangerous technology to a key diagnostic tool in dentistry. “Inside the Dental Practice: 1860-1940” also highlights the mechanical and artistic work performed in dental laboratories.

As with many of the stories featured in the Sindecuse Museum, Inside the Dental Practice: 1860-1940 highlights the role of Michigan in dental history. One panel of the exhibit features the memoirs of the Museum’s benefactor, Dr. Gordon Sindecuse, who practiced dentistry in Michigan.

For the design and fabrication of the exhibit, the Sindecuse Museum worked with Hutchinson Studios, LLC and Exhibit Works International (EWI), which are based in southeast Michigan. Also instrumental in developing the exhibit was Brynn Raupagh, exhibit writer and developer. The exhibit uses narrative, historical photos and catalog graphics, as well as a variety of dental artifacts and equipment to describe the transformations that dramatically impacted the American dental profession.


Listen to Shannon O'Dell, Curator, speak with Jerry Mastey, Editor, about Inside the Dental Practice: 1860-1940. (4:00)

Download a PDF transcript of the podcast.