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Greene Vardiman Black (1836–1915), commonly known as G.V. Black, is known as one of the founders of modern dentistry in the United States. He is also known as the father of operative dentistry. He was born near Winchester, Illinois on August 3, 1836 to William and Mary Black. He spent his early life on a farm and quickly developed an interest in the natural world. By the age of 17, Black began studying medicine with the help of his brother, Dr. Thomas G. Black. In 1857, he met Dr. J.C. Speer, who taught him the practice of dentistry. After the Civil War, in which he served as a union scout, he relocated to Jacksonville, Illinois. It was here that he began an active career and research in the underdeveloped field of dentistry.
He researched many important topics to dentistry, including the best composition for dental amalgams and the cause of dental fluorosis. One of his many inventions was a foot-driven dental drill. He is also known for his principles of tooth preparations, in which he outlines the proper methods to prepare teeth for fillings. The phrase, "extension for prevention," is still famous in the dental community today and represents Black's idea that dentists should incorporate more grooves and pits than those currently exhibiting decay as a preventive measure against those grooves and pits developing tooth decay in the future.
Further, he organized 'Black's Classification of Caries Lesions' which is still in use today. Since that time, only one more category has been added to his classification system.
Black's Classification of Caries Lesions:
- Class I Caries affecting pits and fissures on occlusal third of molars and premolars, occlusal two thirds of molars and premolars, and Lingual part of anterior teeth.
- Class II Caries affecting proximal surfaces of molars and premolars.
- Class III Caries affecting proximal surfaces of central incisors, lateral incisors, and cuspids without involing the incisal angles.
- Class IV Caries affecting proximal including incisal angles of anterior teeth.
- Class V Caries affecting gingival 1/3 of facial or lingual surfaces of anterior or posterior teeth.
- Class VI (never described by Black, added later by others) Caries affecting cusp tips of molars, premolars, and cuspids.
G.V. Black was also the second Dean of Northwestern University Dental School, where his portrait hung until the school's closure in 2001. His statue can be found in Chicago's Lincoln Park. He was also inducted in the International Hall of Fame of Dentistry of the Pierre Fauchard Academy on February 25, 1995.
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