Leadership and Legacy: Oral Health Milestones in Maternal and Child Health Promotion and Prevention OHRC


Baltimore College of Dental Surgery
Baltimore College of Dental Surgery becomes the world's first dental college. Reproduced with permission from the Maryland Historical Society.
  • First dental school established


Dentistry was first practiced in the United States during the colonial era. At that time, a few physicians and surgeons practiced dentistry, along with numerous barber dentists and many charlatans.

Until 1840, dental practitioners’ degrees of competence varied greatly. Practitioners were generally untrained, self-educated, or recipients of apprenticeship training from an established practitioner.

Founded in 1840, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery received its charter by an act of the Maryland General Assembly. It matriculated its first two students in 1841. With the founding of the college, dentistry became a profession separate from medicine. Dentistry could have become a medical specialty if the Maryland legislature had approved a request to incorporate it as a department at the University of Maryland’s medical school, but the request was rejected owing to cost. Dentistry then set its own course.

The Ohio Dental School was established in 1845, followed by the Transylvania School of Dental Surgery and the Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery in 1850. By 1876, 15 dental schools had been established.


The educational agencies chiefly responsible for the improvement of the practice of dentistry have been schools of dentistry since 1840, national associations of dental schools and dental teachers since 1884, and a national council on dental education since 1909. These bodies worked collaboratively to elevate educational and professional standards and to develop uniform statutory requirements for the practice of dentistry.


Allukian M, ed. 2006. Oral Health. In Pfizer. Milestones in Public Health: Accomplishments in Public Health Over the Last 100 Years (pp. 167–189). New York, NY: Pfizer.

Gies WJ. 1926. General history of dental education in the United States (pp. 38–55). In Dental Education in the United States and Canada: A Report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. New York, NY: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Henry JL, Sinkford JC. 1975. The development of education in dental public health in the United States of America. Journal of the National Medical Association 67(5):345–410.

McCauley HB. 2003. The first dental college: Emergence of dentistry as an autonomous profession. Journal of the History of Dentistry 51(1):41–45.

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