The scientific profession of dentistry was not born on Nov. 3, 1840, on Sharp Street between Lombard and Pratt Streets in Baltimore. It only seemed that way.
Dentistry was a mechanical craft with no standards and sporadic competence among the 1,200 U.S. practitioners, but Dr. Horace Hayden had lectured on it at the University of Maryland medical school as early as 1821. An lecture again in 1837 led to a crusade to get the state medical school to teach dentistry, but it refused. Undaunted, he persuaded the General Assembly to charter an independent Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. It opened its doors 150 years ago today, with a faculty of four and a student body of five.
Co-founder Dr. Chapin A. Harris laid the foundation with his first lecture: "Elevate the standard of the qualifications of the dental surgeon," he said, "to a level of those of the medical practitioner, and the results of the practice will be always beneficial. Require of the practitioner of dental surgery that he be educated in the collateral sciences of anatomy and physiology, surgery, pathology and therapeutics, and the sphere of his usefulness and his respectability will be increased."
That same year, Drs. Hayden and Harris launched the first dental journal and dental professional association. Dr. Hayden's earlier vision was vindicated in 1923 when, after 15 years' discussion, the college he launched and the newer UM dental school were merged into one powerful, research and training institution. It has been at the forefront of dental advance ever since.
At 150, the University of Maryland Dental School is thriving. It has tTC 601 students, of which 48 percent are women and 27 percent are from minorities. It has 210 faculty members, who both teach and pursue research. Its clinics see 100,000 patients annually and an ambitious physical renovation is under way.
UM's dental school is a world leader. The need for training, skill, excellence and advance in dental surgery remains. Thanks to the pioneering vision of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, then and now, the sphere of usefulness and respectability of dentistry is still growing.