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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 267-270

Museums of materials used in dentistry: Our experience and literature review

1 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Yenepoya Dental College, Yenepoya University, Mangalore, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Dental Materials, Yenepoya Dental College, Yenepoya University, Mangalore, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication20-Dec-2016

Correspondence Address:
V Shama Bhat
Department of Dental Materials, Yenepoya Dental College, Mangalore - 576 018, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2321-4848.196185

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There are museums in every branches of science and technologies as well as in many other fields of fine arts, sculpture, etc., serving the societies in acquisition of deeper knowledge. However, no serious attempts have been made to establish such museums in dental sciences. The aim of this article is to create awareness of the importance of the museums in the dental institutions and to provide resource for research in different specialties. The objective is to expose our unique experiences in this area which helped the students to improve their knowledge of the dental sciences and the public dental health awareness. The methods adopted were collection of large numbers of samples, fabrications of models, charts, etc., for teaching curriculum and public education and presenting them with suitable classifications. Results of this vast effort and pains taken are very much appreciated and encouraged by the visiting dentists, dignitaries, school children, and the public. Museums of dental materials should be inseparable parts of the dental teaching institutions and are very essential for the dental students and educating the societies on dental health awareness.

Keywords: Dental health awareness, dentistry, museums, resource for research, veterinary dentistry

How to cite this article:
Sripathi Rao B H, Bhat V S, Nandish B T, Jayaprakash K, Rao S. Museums of materials used in dentistry: Our experience and literature review. Arch Med Health Sci 2016;4:267-70

How to cite this URL:
Sripathi Rao B H, Bhat V S, Nandish B T, Jayaprakash K, Rao S. Museums of materials used in dentistry: Our experience and literature review. Arch Med Health Sci [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Oct 2];4:267-70. Available from: https://www.amhsjournal.org/text.asp?2016/4/2/267/196185

  Introduction Top

Museum is defined as a nonprofit permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education and enjoyment (International Council of Museums).[1] According to Frank Oppenheimer “for many people science is incomprehensible and technology frightening.”[2] There is thus a growing need for an environment, in which people can become familiar with the details of science and technology. The purpose of a science museum and an exploration center would be to satisfy this need.[2] Informal learning in science museums can be a major contributor in promoting public understanding of science as museums are one central medium in communicating central scientific ideas.[3] Pedretti has highlighted the spaces for dialog or discussion terminals, which enhance the spirit of inquiry and allow for free exchange of ideas on the topics with the visitors.[4] Knipfer has elaborated the importance and need of a discussion terminal in science museums.[5] It could be valuable and entertaining for the public and would serve as a resource to schools and existing adult education programs.[2] Incorporating the recent museum technologies, museums have been developed, in anatomy, pathology forensic medicine, etc., Anatomy department is also known by its museum in medical institutions where human body parts organ, soft parts, and hard parts are presented in many ways by mounting in formaldehyde solution in acrylic jars, and special techniques have been developed for mounting the specimens.[6] Pulvertaft has reviewed many museum techniques, especially used in pathology museums.[7] Suarez and Tsutsui have discussed the value of museums with regard to various studies on public health and safety, environmental contaminations, agriculture, biological invasions, global climate changes, etc.[8] There are many varieties of museums in engineering technology, historical excavations, fine arts, architecture, evolutions, etc., almost in every area.

In 2002, the Dr. Samuel D Harris National Museum of Dentistry had arranged a dental exhibition at the University of Maryland's Medical and Dental Centre in Baltimore. The contents of the exhibits were photographs, charts, artifacts, memorable, etc. The materials were mostly related to the African-American activities in dental education research, patient care, general practice, dental specialties, military service, and public health.[9]

The first Veterinary Dental School established in Lvon, France was the first step in this area, and books on this subject were published in 1905, 1938, etc. The American Veterinary Dental College determines the guidelines and conditions for the certifications.[10] A good museum of skulls and teeth of various animals is required for introduction of P. G. course in this specialty.

Realizing this wide lacuna in the field of dentistry, building up of a museum of teaching models and materials was initiated by the newly established Department of Science of Dental Materials at the College of Dental Sciences, Manipal (India), in 1976. With the rich experience gained, a similar one was later (1999) developed with many innovations at the Yenepoya Dental Institution (Yenepoya University, Mangalore). With excellent support and encouragement from the Chancellor and the authorities, it was possible to develop our unique “learning laboratory.” This has been acclaimed as perhaps the best and most useful contribution to the society at large by all visiting dentists and dignitaries. The authors want to share their experiences and experiments on this noble idea with other dental institutions [Figure 1].
Figure 1: External view of museum of dental materials in Yenepoya Dental College, Yenepoya University, Mangalore.

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Aims and objectives

Present and future dentistry requires deeper knowledge of basic sciences and information regarding the latest innovations of materials as well as technologies for updating the clinical skills of dental practitioners [Figure 2]. The recent knowledge explosion in science and technologies has resulted in causing the presently used dental materials, technologies, and clinical methods become outdated very soon. Accordingly, the subject curricula to be studied are also frequently modified. In addition, the community dentistry subject is given much importance in view of promoting the oral health awareness in society and children. The time has come for establishing museum of all the materials used in dentistry earlier, at present and updating it continuously, in every institution for dental sciences. The aim is also to create dental health and clinical treatments awareness in the public and school children with the excellent systematic presentation of these, along with attractive colorful pictures of materials, literature, wall-posters, history of evolution stages of clinical procedures, etc. Such a well-planned developed museums become, learning laboratories for students, an excellent resource for researchers and promote dental health awareness in society. A separate section on skulls and teeth of animals has been developed which is helpful to establish specialty course in veterinary dentistry.
Figure 2: Internal view and presentations of materials and skulls in various showcases.

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  Methodology Top

Collection of samples

Collection of samples of the materials of many verities was the first stage. This cannot be done overnight in case old materials and antiques. Since these are not available for purchase, one has to contact many elderly private dental practitioners, old clinics, dental laboratories, and dental institutions. These constitute an important aspect of a museum, required for systematic studies on the development of various materials. However, samples of all the presently used materials can be easily purchased. Similarly, very attractive transparent, semitransparent, or opaque teaching models of any desired color showing the internal structures can be secured from outside. These also can be fabricated likewise by the dental technicians with the available polymer resin techniques in the dental laboratories.


Presentation of these materials in an attractive manner is a very important aspect. Depending on the space available, suitable glass showcases are to be designed to get maximum exposure of the materials at the eye level of the visitors, to minimize the eyestrain. Adequate illumination is to be provided. Corresponding literature, attractive brochures, relevant colored pictures of materials, and clinical treatment procedures are made easily available. All the presented articles should be suitably labeled. Details and the latest literature available should be supplemented. A library of required reference books and journals should be made easily accessible.


Classifications of materials and models are done suitably to reach them easily and quickly. The classification can be done in different manners depending on the main purpose of the museums. For example, if it is mostly used by students of dentistry, various materials, their applications, and relevant models should be presented in the sequence of learning, i.e., subject wise, as arranged by us in the following order [Figure 3]:
Figure 3: Presentations of materials in various showcases.

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  • Structure, properties of matter, and testing (samples) methods
  • Cast and die (auxiliary) materials
  • Impression materials, verities of impressions and techniques
  • Polymer resins used for dentures, miscellaneous techniques, stages of their fabrications, defects, and porosities
  • Waxes: Auxiliary materials
  • Metallurgy: Ores, samples of metals and alloys, appliances, and charts of their properties
  • Noble and base metal alloys, steps of casting procedures
  • Conservative restorative materials, cements, silver amalgam alloys, composite resins, varieties of cavity cuttings, root canal treatment materials, etc.
  • Ceramics, metal-ceramics, and steps of fabrications
  • Materials used in orthodontia: Active and reactive appliances, solders, and fluxes
  • Implantology materials and techniques
  • Cutting, abrasion and finishing materials, and instruments
  • Miscellaneous items, such as antiques, dental chairs, equipments, and materials
  • Charts regarding the compositions, properties, and applications of all the materials
  • Power points, recordings of video and audio descriptions of the items
  • Wall-posters highlighting the dental problems and health hazards
  • Steps of clinical procedures to be followed
  • History of evolution of dentistry
  • Discussion terminal.

Public dental health education

For educating the patients, school children, and public visitors, that is, for public health dentistry, more attention is to be given to exhibit the models and materials, along with wall-posters, related to the clinical situations, treatments, common cases of before and after treatments of restorations, surgical interventions of trauma, accidents, oral cancers, cleft palates, implants, etc. Video and audio recordings of these items can be projected at the rural dental treatment camps in the schools, villages, or the outreaches, to create awareness of dental health care.

The museums should be established in a prominent place, preferably at the entrance of the institution, and close to the patients' waiting lounge. This should attract the patients and casual visitors. Museums should be properly illuminated and always kept open to public. The persons in charge (curator) should be suitably trained in maintaining and explaining to the visitors.

Further scope

As opined by Frank Oppenheimer, museums should serve as the resources for researchers, inspire the students, and educate the community.[2] Museums should be continuously enriched with latest material products, information regarding sophisticated fabrication technologies, and details of their impact on the clinical practices. The entire museum can be digitalized and be projected, whenever required. Since there is scarcely any dental treatment without using any dental material, institutions should give utmost importance to establish such self-educative museums or learning laboratories. Every department also should develop museums of specialized materials for advanced P. G. courses.

Skulls and teeth of animals

Recently, another unique special section has been added to this. Skulls and jaws with teeth of many domestic animals have been collected and preserved. These are also presented systematically [Figure 4]. Many detailed informations of domestic as well as wild animals, such as their scientific names, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, type, diet, lifestyles, habitat, predators, distinctive features, subspecies, verities, skin types, colors, sizes, weight, top speeds, life spans, etc., have been collected and presented. Details of the skulls and teeth for comparative anatomy, structural variations, mono-dontics (open root systems), fio-dontics, placements, properties, etc., have been gathered for further studies.
Figure 4: Presentations of skulls and teeth of various animals.

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Man had evolved as the most complex dental mechanism of all animals. Many evidences showed that the size and shape of the teeth and jaws have been reduced since 5000 years due to the changes in food habits and required functions. The elongated and interlocking canines have been reduced in length so that they can function with the rest of the teeth in lateral movements.[11] Many research projects regarding the studies of the internal structures, mechanical properties of different teeth of animals, mono-dontics, dio-dontics, fio-dontics, etc., have been envisaged using the facilities of a materials testing laboratory.

  Conclusions Top

The concept of an integrated museum for dental sciences is not entirely new one. Some devoted faculty in few institutions of dental sciences has collected fabricating and teaching models with respect to their specialties and presented in their departments. This systematic classification and planned projection in the museum serve as a resource to motivate the students, to assist researchers, and to educate the societies in awareness of dental health care and verities of clinical treatments.

There is also vast scope for research, perhaps, in this new area, regarding the skulls and teeth of animals. Many interesting results obtained may throw some light to the structure, properties of human teeth developments, and treatments also. This may also lead to establish veterinary dentistry specialty P. G. Diploma courses in India and elsewhere.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Knipfer K. Knowledge Acquisition and Opinion Formation at Science Museums: The Potential of a Discussion Terminal for Collaborative Elaboration on Controversial Issues. PhD Thesis. Available from: http://www.iwm-kmrc.de/museum/publications/CSCL_Knipfer_Knowledge%20Acquisition.pdf. [Last accessed on 2016 Aug 10].  Back to cited text no. 1
Oppenheimer F. Rationale for a science museum. Mus J 1968;1:206-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
Durant J. Museums and the Public Understanding of Science. London: Science Museum; 1952.  Back to cited text no. 3
Pedretti E. Learning about Science through Science Exhibitions, Paper Presented at the International Science Museum, Science Teaching and Learning Conference, Taiwan; 2006. Available from: http://www. [Last accessed on 2016 May 15].  Back to cited text no. 4
Knipfer K. Demonstration of a Discussion Terminal for Knowledge Acquisition and Opinion Formation in Science Museums. Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/221034243. [Last accessed on 2016 Jul 16].  Back to cited text no. 5
Jain LK, Babel H, Vijay N. New technique to mount specimen in the formalin filled jar for anatomy museum with almost invisible support. Int J Curr Res Rev 2013;5:45-50.  Back to cited text no. 6
Pulvertaft RJ. Museum techniques; a review. J Clin Pathol 1950;3:1-23.  Back to cited text no. 7
Suarez AV, Tsutsui ND. The value of museum collections for research and society. Bioscience 2004;54:66-74.  Back to cited text no. 8
Dummett CO. National Museum of Dentistry exhibition: The future is now! African Americans in dentistry. J Natl Med Assoc 2003;95:879-83.  Back to cited text no. 9
Easley K. Veterinary dentistry: Its origin and recent history. J Hist Dent 1999;47:83-5.  Back to cited text no. 10
Bhargavi A, Ajay S, Rohit B, Anand V, Gulati M. Comparative tooth anatomy – A review. Int J Dent Sci Res 2013;1:34-7.  Back to cited text no. 11


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


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