The Evolution of the Dental Chair

From humble beginnings to modern ergonomic chairs, changes to dental chairs benefit both the patient and the doctor. Here is a brief look at the significant changes the dental chair has undergone over the last 300 years.

The First Dental Chairs
Before the 17th century it was common for the patient to sit or lay on the floor. The only chair used was a normal wooden chair until 1790, when a chair with a headrest to keep the patient’s head in a fixed position was invented.

Nearly 100 years later, in 1867, Dr. James Beall invented the first patented dental chair. It had useful features like a footrest, and vertical adjustment. Ten years later, Dr. Basil Manly Wilkerson patented a hydraulic lift foot pump chair. In 1893, Frank Ritter and Dewell Stuck came up with a pedestal version, which bore a strong resemblance to a barber chair. There were minor changes through the years, but it wasn’t until 1958 that the next major breakthrough came about.

Posture Perfect
In 1958, the first fully reclining dental chair was developed. Today, the chair continues to be refined and the materials used continue to evolve. They are well padded for comfort and are highly adjustable. They are often made with anti-bacterial substances and can be easily cleaned. The ergonomic design and padding allow even the most nervous patient to feel comfortable.

The comfort is not only for the patient. Dentists initially practiced standing up, but the hours spent standing and bending over increased to the point that back and shoulder issues for dentists became commonplace. Now, with the patient lying down and the vertical height adjusted to reduce bending, dentists can sit in a chair and obtain better vision of the patient’s mouth while improving their posture.

Cheer the Chair
Now that you know its history, the next time you visit you can lay back, relax, and be thankful for how far the dental chair has come.


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