The dental chair has always been an object of interest for patients. Buttons, switches, built-in examining lights, pedals and tubes often adorn these feature-rich chairs. Before the modern dental chairs came about, however, it was just a humble staple in a clinic.
The Earliest Days
In 1790, the first dentist chair was invented by American Josiah Flagg. By installing a moveable headrest to a writing chair, Flagg made it more comfortable for patients to position their heads during procedures. The desk on the writing chair served as a platform for his tools. It wasn’t until 40 years later that the first mechanical dentist chair was built by an Englishman, named James Snell. By leaning backwards, Snell’s chair automatically propped up padded footrests.
Mechanical Revolution for Dental Chairs
It was Snell’s invention that changed the dental chairs. People were now introducing moving parts into their chairs. In 1868, James Beall Morrison built a chair that allowed patients to be tilted from side to side. Just four years after, he invented a chair that lifted patients more than 3 feet up. This allowed dentists to work either seated or standing.
An odd invention is the 1905 dentist chair that tilted patients with their head down and legs up. Luckily, the Fredrick’s Dental Chair and its extreme, full-body tilting isn’t common practice today. Brewer Company LLC, a manufacturer of dental chairs notes that since the beginning, the stride to recreate the dental chair has been tempered by the comfort of both the patient and the dentist.
The modern reclining chair is attributed to John Naughton who built the first one in 1958. Now the standard of modern dentistry, these chairs recline patients comfortably and allow the four-handed approach.
The dental chair still strikes fear in many people. But the next time you recline on a padded seat and reclined at a perfect angle, you have to admit it’s also very comfortable.