For many years, dentistry in America was regarded as a low trade, a sort of “tooth carpentry” practiced by barbers, blacksmiths, and other multitasking professions.
In the early 1800s, practitioners began working to legitimize the profession and lift it to the ranks of a respected medical science. To make tooth care easier, more comfortable, and less hazardous, dentists developed specialized tools and furniture, refining them over the decades. These innovations eventually led to the modern dentist office.
Founded in 1991 with a gift from the University of Michigan graduate Gordon H. Sindecuse, the Sindecuse Museum documents the history of American dentistry. The museum is housed in an atrium joining two multipurpose buildings on campus.
There is a particular focus on the history of the University’s School of Dentistry and on the development of professional tooth care in Michigan. Other exhibits showcase dental office equipment that dates back to the Victorian period. Several exhibits also highlight technological advances in the profession such as foot-pedal powered tooth drills, early (and often dangerous) X-ray machines, tools for smithing gold teeth, and other innovations.
There is even a display on Apollonia, the Patron Saint of Dentistry and another one devoted to pop culture interpretations of the Tooth Fairy.
Know Before You Go
The Sindecuse Museum is located in the atrium connecting the Kellogg Building with the School of Dentistry. The best way to access it is through the main entrance of the Kellogg Building located on Fletcher Street just off of North University Ave. The main entrance has stairs, but a handicapped entrance is available on the northern side of the building.
Parking can be hard to find on the busy University of Michigan campus, but parking structures are available in the nearby downtown district of Ann Arbor.