How Pankey Dentists Shaped Modern Dentistry: Evolving Techniques

October 8, 2017 Jay Anderson DDS

We have a remarkable heritage at Pankey. Around the 1950’s and 1960’s, four innovations converged to permanently change the dental profession worldwide. Pankey dentists were part of the creation of all of them.

In my last post, I talked about the invention of the sit-down chair. Now, I’ll dive into time and motion studies, high speed air-driven rotary handpieces, and the “washed-field’ evacuation technique. These innovations had a significant impact on the future of dentistry.

Pankey Innovators of Modern Dentistry

Time and Motion Studies

These studies evaluated and changed how dentistry was delivered, e.g. four-handed dentistry, ergonomics, efficiency, etc. My father, Dr. John Anderson was a large part of that along with men from the east coast. Don Coburn from Canada was also a major time and motion researcher and later became a strong supporter of the Institute. My dad wrote several articles in the Dental Clinics of North America about office design related to time/motion principles.

High Speed Air-Driven Rotary Handpieces

Before the 1960’s, belt driven handpieces were the norm. Dr. Henry Tanner was at Bethesda at that time working with engineers designing this new high-speed technology. This too was reluctantly received by the profession at first but now one can’t imagine doing dentistry without it. Dr. Tanner was on the faculty at the Institute and you can find his portrait in Master’s Hall.

“Washed-field” Evacuation Technique

This is the type of high volume vacuum system we use each and every day today. It replaced the workhorse cuspidors used by everyone in the 50’s and early 60’s. The new water-cooled high-speeds needed this innovation for pulpal health and prepping efficiency. To my surprise, there are still cuspidors being used in operatories to this day. Elbert Thompson of Salt Lake City, Utah was the dentist that created a consumer friendly system of high volume evacuation. He was a friend of Dr. Pankey and an integral associate of these other innovators.

What Pankey history do you admire? We’d love to hear from you in the comments! 

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About Author

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Jay Anderson DDS

Dr. Anderson practice in Grand Forks, ND in his own fee for service office until moving to Arizona in 2015. He now practices at Desert Sun Smiles in Glendale, AZ. He is a long time faculty member at the Pankey Institute. His passion for small group learning began as a member of a study club with Dr. Henry Tanner and then evolved into his facilitating numerous groups of dentists focused on appliance therapy and functional issues. Jay is passionate about individualized care and continuous learning.

One thought on “How Pankey Dentists Shaped Modern Dentistry: Evolving Techniques

  1. And we only thought Pankey was about CE?! “Pankey dentists” changed the entire world of dentistry. As you can see, my father was only one of many. Pankey Proud.

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