Antique Dental Cabinets From Days Gone By

Updated June 1, 2021
Historical pharmacy cabinets

If you're growing tired of your home's interior and are thinking about adding a unique piece of furniture to your décor, a richly decorated antique dental cabinet might be just what you're looking for. From gorgeous ornate wood grain designs that're trimmed with marble and have beveled mirrors to the sleek metal styles of the Art Deco era, the uses for these highly sought after furniture pieces of yesteryear are endless.

The Professional Dentistry Trade's Development

While people had been performing dental surgeries for thousands of years, codified dentistry didn't develop in earnest until the late 18th century and early 19th centuries. The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was established in 1840 as the world's first dental school, and just a year later, Alabama enacted legislation which sought to regulate dentistry in its state. These developments marked an important shift in the dental arts, and with them came the need for specialized tools and equipment. Thus, dentistry cabinets became a fundamental feature of the dental office as they helped dentists organize their tools in a refined and professional manner.

Identifying Antique Dental Cabinets

When you first see many of the antique dental cabinets from years past, you might think they resemble turn-of-the-century china cabinets, sideboards, and secretary bookcases. However, these multi-shelved cabinets are much narrower than these other pieces of furniture, and boast such unique features as:

  • Dozens of small drawers
  • Drawers within drawers
  • Removable drawers for house calls
  • Revolving doors
  • Bi-fold doors
  • Swing-out trays
  • Swing-out side doors
  • Large storage areas
  • Tambour roll top areas
  • Divided drawer trays
  • Removable drawer trays

Design Characteristics

In addition to all of these unique storage features, antique dentistry cabinets were crafted with a great amount of attention paid to the finest details. Depending on the style and period in which they were created, antique dental cabinets can include such elements as:

  • Velvet lined drawers
  • Decorative brass trim
  • Decorative designs of mother of pearl or inlaid wood
  • Beveled glass
  • Beveled mirrors
  • Leaded glass
  • Hand dovetailed drawers
  • Marble accents or shelf areas
  • Raised wood panels
  • Solid wood backs
  • Areas and compartments with fine locking mechanisms
Antique Dental furniture

Wooden Dental Cabinets

Most antique dental cabinets were constructed out of different types of fine wood, from the local to the exotic. Since it was a common practice to use several additional types of wood in some of the interior sections of the cabinets, many of these surviving examples aren't produced with just a single piece of wood. The various types of wood typically used were:

  • Mahogany
  • Oak
  • Quarter-sawn oak
  • Walnut
  • Maple
  • Bird's Eye Maple
  • Cherry

Metal Dental Cabinets

Metal dental cabinets of the Art Deco style are referred to as machine age cabinets and are also very popular with collectors. Cabinets of this era generally have a sleek style and an industrial look, sometimes differing in the strict rectangular form to show off the curvature that was popular during the period. Unfortunately, surviving examples of these cabinets are susceptible to rust, so you have to be particularly thorough when you're looking at any listings for these cabinets to make sure you're getting an accurately assessed piece.

Manufactures of Antique and Vintage Dental Cabinets

Although there are many antique dental cabinets on the market with unknown makers, the following are some of the most prominent companies that used to manufacture these goods:

  • Ransom & Randolph Company of Toledo, Ohio
  • The American Cabinet Company of Two Rivers, Wisconsin
  • The Harvard Company of Canton, Ohio
  • A.C. Clark & Company of Chicago, Illinois
  • S.S. White Company
  • The Dental Manufacturing Company Ltd.
  • Cash and Sons of England
  • Shelly of Los Angeles
  • Lee Smith & Sons of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Dentists chair and antique office

Antique Dentistry Cabinet Values

Unlike the stainless steel that modern dentistry cabinets are normally made out of, antique cabinets were most often crafted out of various types of hardwood and featured elaborate carvings and intricate detailing. However, you can find antique dentistry cabinets from the early 20th century that were made out of metal, and these types are just as valuable as their wooden counterparts.

In terms of determining value, estimates heavily rely on the cabinet's condition and the value of the materials it's made out of. For instance, this 1820 two-piece rosewood dental cabinet is listed for $12,500 in one auction, while an expertly restored metal cabinet from the 1920s is listed for a little over $14,000 in another. Similarly, a smaller mahogany cabinet circa 1890 recently sold for $6,000 in an online sale. Ultimately, the size, quality of materials, and ages of these antique dentistry cabinets lends them to having average values between $3,000-$10,000.

A Home for Every One of Your Nicknacks

In addition to being a stunning addition to your home furnishings, these versatile pieces of furniture have an endless number of uses. All of the small drawers and compartments that they have make excellent places to store your jewelry, family photographs, or other small treasures. You can easily convert cabinets with glass enclosed sections into unique curios that display all of your favorite collectibles with elegance. Crafters can store their scrapbooking, needlework, or jewelry making supplies inside. Basically, the uses for antique dental cabinets are only limited by your imagination.

Antique Dental Cabinets From Days Gone By