Pain Management & Anesthesia

ADA Library & Archives digital exhibit details dental pain management through the years

Collection complements National Library of Medicine’s traveling exhibit stopping at ADA

On display: The National Library of Medicine’s “Take Two and Call Me in the Morning: The Story of Aspirin Revisited” traveling exhibit stands at ADA headquarters in Chicago.

The ADA Library & Archives has launched a digital exhibit detailing pain management in dentistry to complement a National Library of Medicine traveling exhibit stopping at ADA headquarters in Chicago through July 8.

The ADA Library & Archives provides ADA members with access to dental and oral health resources and research as well as records and publications from the ADA’s archives. Part of that research is available through ADA Commons, an open digital repository that collects, preserves and disseminates state and local dental association publications and research.

“From Willow Leaf to Pain Relief: Aspirin & Pain Management in Dentistry” is ADA Commons’ first digital exhibit. It traces the progression of orofacial pain management throughout history, highlighting how recommendations for aspirin and other medicines prescribed for dental pain relief have changed over the years.

“It's exciting to get to uncover and piece together dentistry's past with its present through the ADA's extensive modern resources and archival collections,” said Ellen Thieme, ADA Library & Archives digital archives assistant, who worked on not only the ADA exhibit but also the National Library of Medicine exhibit when she was an associate fellow there.

The digital exhibit features three collections. One offers a sampling of the different ways people have attempted to alleviate orofacial pain over time, including folk beliefs and early medical thought. It also includes items that attempted to dispel discredited pain management theories from earlier eras and campaigns against pain relief misinformation.

Another section deals with the changing best practices for medications prescribed to patients to ease pain after extractions.

The third collection contains primers on aspirin from contemporary ADA and National Library of Medicine resources, as well as a selection of archival materials pertaining to aspirin published by the ADA. ADA Commons items in this collection include recommendations for methods to relieve work-related pain for dental professionals, guidance on aspirin use for pediatric dental patients and more.

The National Library of Medicine’s “Take Two and Call Me in the Morning: The Story of Aspirin Revisited” is a traveling exhibit detailing the history of aspirin around the world, from ancient to modern times. It expands on the content of a 1959 exhibit about the same topic and features a companion website.

ADA members who want to visit ADA headquarters to see the traveling exhibit should contact the ADA Library & Archives at or 1-312-440-2653.

“For centuries, physicians and healers used willow bark to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation, but in the late 1800s, scientists developed a way to produce a synthetic version of the active ingredient in the herbal remedy. Since then, aspirin has become a part of everyday life,” the exhibit website states. “Contemporary scientists are examining the drug for possible benefits beyond pain relief and fever reduction.”

The exhibit includes a selection of health information resources and a digital gallery of items from the historical collections of the National Library of Medicine.

“I think, especially paired with the ADA Commons exhibit we've created, dentists will really appreciate the bird's eye perspective on the magnitude of dentistry's impact on people's relationship to pain and patient safety,” Ms. Thieme said. “In many ways, the traveling exhibit and our ADA Commons exhibit are a thank-you note to our scientific community and the people who engage with it.”

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