Alum Explores History Through Vintage Dental Gear

Dr. Michel Mouravieff

Mike Mouravieff has a vast trove of dental antiques, from an S.S.White dental chair with red velvet upholstery, circa 1897, to a century-old bottle of Listerine.

There’s also an Edwardian tin of Dental Sweet Snuff, a chewing tobacco that, according to the dubious claims of its manufacturer, could whiten teeth, prevent tooth decay and protect against scurvy.

But the alum’s favorite collectibles are books,  like “The Teeth and How to Save Them,’’ copyright 1872. Another tome, published in 1838,  is titled  “The Gums: With Late Discoveries on Their Structure, Growth, Connection, Diseases and Sympathies.”

“I love the old books because they contain so much historical information,’’ says Dr. Mouravieff, who graduated from RSDM in 1986 and eventually opened a general dentistry practice in Ridgewood, New Jersey. “You learn that the foundation of periodontics was started a long time ago. They had microscopes in the 1800’s but they didn’t’ know what they were looking at yet. They were trying to sort things out.’’

Dr. Mouravieff began collecting dental memorabilia about 15 years ago after a friend told him about the availability of dental antiques. He began visiting different auctions and estate sales, scooping up whatever he could find. The hunt became addictive. “I’d buy a box full of items without even knowing what I was buying,’’ he said.

A lifelong history buff, Mouravieff says the antiques are a way to learn more about science and medicine — and satisfy his endless curiosity. “It’s fascinating to me about how we started this profession and how it developed. I enjoy going back a few steps in time to find out why things have turned out the way they have.”

He now has about 150 antique/vintage pieces. Some of the most valuable are a set of ornate dental instruments, packed in a traveling case and inlaid with rubies and mother-of-pearl handles.

Dr. Mouravieff retired from dentistry in 2012 due to a neck injury and is hoping to sell his restored Ridgewood home/office, which includes state-of-the-art equipment and a waiting room full of antique dental items. But he plans to hang on to a few. He’s not ready to give up his hobby, which he describes as a way to “own a part of dental history”.