While archaeological explorations have uncovered prosthetic appliances as old as 4000 years "Denturism", we are told, involved retrieving extracted and/or lost teeth, and binding them back into place with gold wire or gold strips. The first person who made dentures, as we understand them today, was a French pharmacist.
Working in Paris, in the early part of the 18th century, Monsieur Fauchard found that, by taking a mouth impression with plaster, he was able to construct a rubber appliance into which he could add baked porcelain teeth. Subsequently, we began to see the slow steady evolution of a specialty field, requiring craftsmanship, patience, and the never-ending challenge to construct more effective, more comfortable and more aesthetically pleasing dentures.
By the time dentistry classes were introduced into university studies, we had begun to see a more formal separation between those who, for the most part, extracted teeth (dentists) and those who specialized in the construction and fitting of dentures (technicians).
Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, while technicians continued to work in the mouth, dentists mounted an increasingly strong lobby to influence regulations related to the delivery of dental health care services. They were able to persuade legislators to limit work in the mouth to themselves. When technicians working in laboratories were asked for their opinions, dependence on the dentist largely shaped their responses. Technicians who had continued to work with patients were not consulted, and legislation that continues until today, defines the scope of practice for the two professions.
Interestingly, although "denturism" as we now define it was unknown then, it was already becoming a worldwide development. The idea of the allowing of a non-dentist to perform designated dental procedures arose from a New Zealand dental nursing program. That 1921 program began in response to the high incidence of dental disease and an inability of existing dental manpower to provide required care and service.
In 1957 the Tasmanian Parliament passed legislation enabling dental technicians with approved qualifications (exams were set by a newly appointed Dental Mechanics Registration Board) to work directly with patients providing them with full and partial dentures. A certificate of Oral Heath issued by a dentist or medical practitioner was initially required but this removed after a 5yr review of the legislation.
In North America, it was the Alberta 1933 Health Amendment Act that first provided direct legislation for the practice of Denturism. This legislation was updated in 1961 and became the first piece of legislation pertaining only to the practice of Denturism.
In the U.S.A., dental technicians openly declared themselves to be "Denturists" and since the Canadian Denturist movement of the 1950's and early 1960's, have been demanding legitimization of their profession. Although Denturists are organized in 40 states, powerful American Dental Association lobbyist dramatically impacted on the Denturist movement.
As communities came to realize that dentures supplied by dentists were not only increasingly expensive, but could frequently be ill-fitting and/or non-functional, tensions between the professions increased. Denturists came to see that they too needed a strong voice to effectively present their position in terms of dental health care services.
In 1956 three Denturists (Rolf Pfenniger, Hannes Stiebler and Stephan Grabert) came together to form the INTERNATIONALE ARBEITSGEMEINSCHAFT der ZAHNPROTHETIKER (I.A.Z.). Theirs was not a simple job and the opposition they faced was formidable:
- An attempt to preserve a monopoly under the guise of the concern for public safety. The need to educate public policy makers and legislators about the profession. The need to convince colleagues that additional training and education was integral to the professional in terms of level of a person's skill, support from the general public, the credibility and respect among other members of the dental health care profession.
With the 1991 development and approval of the international base-line competencies for Denturists training and education, the I.A.Z. effectively moved the issue of Denturism to the public policy agenda.
- Note: In September 1992 the I.A.Z. at its international conference decided to amalgamate all three designations, I.A.Z., I.F.D. F.D.I. and to adopt as its official designation, International Federation of Denturists - I.F.D.