For an insight into the evolution of the modern dental office and developments in the field of dentistry, a visitor to the International Museum of Surgical Science can view the Dental Office on the first floor of the Museum, adjacent to the 19th century apothecary.
The turn-of-the-century artifacts on exhibit include a velvet-covered white porcelain dental chair, a porcelain dental cabinet with attached Bunsen burner and sterilizer, an early air compressor and electric spotlight, dental instruments, and signage and advertising.
The Museum’s Dental Office reflects the widespread acceptance of sterilization in the late 19th century, when dental offices changed in appearance. Linoleum replaced carpets, Victorian bric-a-brac was removed from walls, and porcelain-on-metal chairs and instrument cabinets replaced wooden ones. Metal cabinets, unlike wooden ones, could be cleaned easily with disinfectants. During this time, electricity and running water also changed the dental office. While a window was still a main source of light, electric lights—often just a single bulb hung over the dental chair—replaced gas and oil lamps. Drills were powered by electricity instead of by foot, and spittoons used running water.
This equipment on exhibit was originally used in one of the Boston Dental Group offices located at 63rd and Halsted Street in Chicago. The Boston dentists were a chain of thirty dental offices throughout the Chicago area, which advertised in newspapers and streetcars. They were in business from 1895 to 1940.
Dr. Samuel S. Wexler, DDS, and Mrs. Charlene Wexler of Richmond, Illinois donated these historic furnishings, instruments, and artifacts to IMSS in the summer of 2001. Dr. Wexler has been collecting articles of dental history for over thirty years.