Modern dentistry recently lost one of its greatest icons and innovators on October 18, 2013. Donald Grant Coburn, DDS, FICD, passed away at 88 years old in his Ontario Canada home.
For those who don’t know, Dr. Coburn made some huge innovations in the field of dental ergonomics. He worked on and invented equipment and furniture designed to help dentists from having back trouble by being able to sit down while they worked instead of having to stand, hunch or lean over their patients.
A Full Dentist Life
Dr. Coburn, with help from a man named Ronald Cox, a tool and die maker, co-founded a firm called Cox Systems that developed and installed new dental technologies and redesigned treatment rooms. They sold all of this over both North America and Europe.
So essentially, not only was Dr. Coburn a dentist but entrepreneur and master craftsman as well. The next time you’re in almost any dentist office, you’re going to be looking at at least some form of Dr. Coburn’s handiwork.
Dr. Coburn also served in the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) near the end of World War II and worked in the forestry department for a short while before devoting his life to dentistry. People who knew him said that even above dentistry, his primary passion was helping people and he certainly devoted his 88 years of life to helping not only his patients but his fellow dentists as well.
Innovations in Dental Ergonomics
Dr. Coburn became interested in dental ergonomics when he started a dental practice out of his own home. He began to take notice of how the dentist would have to stand, hunch and bend, all while having to service a sitting or lying patient.
He not only invented tools for dentists but worked on the ergonomic aspects of dental assistants’ tools as well. Until Dr. Coburn’s time very little had advanced in dental ergonomics and with the convenience and time he got from being allowed to experiment in his own office, Dr. Coburn changed the functionality of almost everything he touched for the better.
All this knowledge didn’t come naturally, however. Dr. Coburn spent most of his free time studying things like engineering and architecture, in order to better understand every component of what he worked on.
It’s rare in any life time to accomplish even half as much as Dr. Coburn, but even if we can’t obtain his successes we can, at the very least, emulate him. He’s proven to anyone that with a little ingenuity one can change the world for the better.