• U.S.

Medicine: Dental Pain Preventer

4 minute read

Smart publicity poised a dentist atop the medical profession for a few days last week. It was the first time that such a thing had happened since 1846 when Dentist William Thomas Green Morton of Charlton, Mass., having successfully pulled teeth from patients under ether, persuaded a notable Boston surgeon to use that drug in a major operation. Anesthesia was again the ladder by which Columbia University’s Dr. Leroy Leo Hartman mounted to last week’s fame.

The publicity campaign began two months ago when Columbia University announced that Dr. Hartman had invented a tooth desensitizer which prevented pain while the dentist drilled to prepare a cavity for a filling. On grounds that Columbia’s University Patents, Inc. wanted to patent the desensitizer Dr. Hartman, alarmed by what might happen to his professional reputation, obdurately refused to answer a multitude of pleas which dentists made to him for his preparation and method (TIME, Dec. 9).

Fortnight ago the New York City branches of the American Dental Association announced that Dr. Hartman would soon tell all at a big meeting in a hotel. The effect of that announcement on dentists and people who needed their teeth fixed made Editor Dr. Charles Raymond Wells of the Bulletin of the Second District Dental Society snort: “The premature publicity does not pay for the many explanations to our patients of why we haven’t the desensitizer yet, neither does it prove a good argument in convincing patients to have their dental work done now. Many patients have purposely put off dental work until this desensitizer is available. Believe me, it will have to work when we do get it!”

At last week’s climactic moment Dr. Hartman, a big, handsome scholar, was confronted by 3,000 dentists and scouts for dental supply houses. Them he vexed by what they considered a needless description of a tooth’s construction: hard, nerveless enamel over dentine over pulp. The pulp contains the tooth’s nerve. The dentine contains a fatty substance called lipoid which Dr. Hartman believes transmits pain to the nerve. By temporarily disconnecting the lipoid from the nerve he believes that he interrupts transmission of pain during drilling in the dentine. Following this theory, he devised a solution which when applied to the dentine did not deaden the nerve as in the case of novocain but contracted the lipoid away from the sensitive nerve.

HARTMAN’s SOLUTION (by weight, not by volume):

Sulphuric Ether—2 parts

Grain Alcohol—1 part

Thymol—1¼| parts

In practice Dr. Hartman applies a pellet of cotton, moistened with Hartman’s Solution, to the dentine of a cavity for two minutes. Thereafter for 20 to 30 minutes, sufficient time for the dentist to drill for a filling, the tooth remains insensitive.

Said Dr. Hartman: ”This is the simplest thing that ever came out of dentistry. The manufacturers are ready to produce it. When I have finished my address, they will call me by long distance telephone and I will give them the formula.”

Well prepared for the occasion, he had brought along mimeographed copies of his formula. Soon as he finished talking, the 3,000 dentists leaped from their seats to cheer and yell, rushed for copies of the formula, fought, shoved, elbowed their way forward. Ushers, finally despairing of decorum, saved their skins by heaving handfuls of the copies over the heads of the grabbing dentists.

The haste and fury with which dentists began to use Hartman’s Solution at the insistent demand of their patients made their early reports questionable. Many reported success in every case. Others scoffed. Others withheld judgment. Results of tests at the Murray and Leonie Guggenheim Dental Clinic reflected general experience. According to Director John Oppie McCall results on five children were “good,” on three “fair,” on two “not good.” Some private patients made news by claiming that they got no relief whatever from Hartman’s Solution. Two possible explanations: 1) compounds prepared by volume instead of weight; 2) incorrect application by the dentist.

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