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The Lady Dentist and Dental Assistant, circa 2005
Emiline Roberts (1837-1924) is considered America’s first woman dentist. She attained her status by apprenticing with her husband who practiced dentistry in Danielson, Connecticut. By 1859, she became his partner and after his death in 1864, she carried on the practice herself for sixty years.
The first woman to receive a formal dental education in the United States was Lucy Hobbs (1833-1910). On February 21, 1866, she was awarded the Doctorate of Dental Surgery Degree from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Today, approximately fifty percent of all students entering dental schools are women. Their contributions along with their male colleagues have advanced the art & science of dentistry in the United States to the status of world leaders of the profession.
The era of the dental assistant is credited to Dr. C. Edmund Kells, a New Orleans dentist, who in 1885 hired a young woman to replace a male assistant. He mentioned “the lady assistant” in a paper entitled “Methods and Means”, published in the Ohio Journal of Dental Science in 1887. Acceptance of female assistants was slow, however, by the early 1900’s, signs denoting “lady in attendance” were common in dental office windows. In 1911, Dr. Henry Fowler, of New York City, hired Juliette Southard as his permanent assistant. She was involved, intelligent, persuasive, and a natural leader. Dental assistant societies were organizing throughout the country, the first in Nebraska in 1917. In 1921, Juliette Southard formed a society in New York City. Her vision was a national unification of her new profession. Thus, she enlisted the help of Jessie Ellsworth, President of the Chicago and Cook County Dental Assistants Association and together they petitioned and received permission to attend the 1923 A.D.A .convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The following year at a meeting in Dallas a constitution and bylaws were adopted, officers elected (Juliette Southard, President) and the American Dental Assistants Association (A.D.A.A.) was born. The A.D.A.A. was incorporated on March 17, 1925, in Illinois. Within the membership, no distinction is made with respect to chairside assistant, receptionist, or general assistant. In 1947, a certifying board was established as a separate and autonomous agency responsible for testing and qualifying dental assistants for certification and the right to use C.D.A. (Certified Dental Assistant) after their names.
The advancements in the technology of today’s dentistry are beyond a single expletive. Of the many fine companies producing dental equipment, we have chosen the DentalEZ Group for this rendering because of their ergonomic detail of design, the efficiency of their equipment, its longevity and their overall excellence in quality, innovation and commitment to the profession. The chair, the J/V-Generation, has a thin narrow back and independent seat tilt with the flexibility of a split back and an anatomically correct hip pivot point and left-right movements. The effect is maximum comfort for the patient and the operating team, a major innovation from the two dimensional chairs of the past. The delivery system is called the Galaxy and in this instance the dentist’s instruments are chair mounted and the assistant’s instruments are mounted on the cabinet. The delivery systems are integrated with air and water supplies, evacuation for high and low volumes, attachments for the dental handpieces and ultrasonic scaler, a 3-way syringe, curing light and intraoral camera. The cabinet, NextGen Team Work Station, provides a convenient work surface for the assistant and easy access to both dentist and assistant. There is ample storage for accessories and high tech equipment used by today’s practitioner. Dental handpieces are made of titanium, a light yet strong and non-corrosive metal. They are available as air driven or electric and contain a fiberoptic light for better viewing of tooth structure. Low speed handpieces turn at 5,000 to 20,000 rpms, while high speeds run as high as 430,000 rpms at 32 psi.
The dental team is equipped to comply with OSHA Regulations producing a safe environment for the patient, dental assistant and the dentist. A picture hanging on the wall to the right side of the operatory depicts a lady dentist practicing in the 1920’s, creating a stark contrast of the profession today and times since passed.