Hover over main image to zoom
The Lady Dentist, circa 1920
During the early 19th Century, very few educational institutions in America or Europe offered a higher education to women. However a system did exist that would allow them to become dentists without a graduate degree. They could demonstrate their skills by practicing under the supervision of a dentist or by serving an apprenticeship with a dentist.
Emiline Roberts (1837-1924) was America's first woman dentist. In 1854, at the age of seventeen, she married a dentist, Dr. Daniel Albion Jones of Danielson, Connecticut. She was so interested in her husband's profession that she studied the basic sciences at night and assisted him during the day. By 1859, she became his partner and after his death in 1864, she carried on the practice for herself for sixty years.
She was elected to membership in the Connecticut State Dental Society in 1893 and the National Dental Association made her an honorary member in 1914.
Lucy Hobbs (1833-1910) became the first woman in the United States to receive a dental degree. At the age of sixteen, after graduating from teacher's school, she tried to secure admission to the newly organized Ohio College of Dental Surgery. The Dean, Jonathan Taft, sympathized but declined her admittance. She canvassed the local dentists and a recent graduate, Dr. Sammuel Wardell, took her on as a preceptorial student. Three months later, in 1861, she opened her first dental practice in Cincinnati, Ohio.
With the start of the Civil War, Miss Hobbs' practice declined and she moved west to Bellevue, Iowa to establish her second practice.
The newly-opened practiced flourished and after securing the backing of the entire Iowa delegation to the American Dental Association, she petitioned Dean Taft once again for admittance to the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. This time, her petition was granted and on February 21, 1866 Lucy Hobbs, with her newly-awarded Doctorate of Dental Surgery (DDS), became the first woman in the world to graduate from a dental school.
I have chosen the post-World War I era to depict the innovative advances of dentistry for Anne Crawford's rendering of "The Female Dentist, circa 1920".
Women dentists of the period treated both genders and all ages of patients, however the preponderance of their clientele were females and children. Although electricity and plumbing were commonplace, offices were usually located on the second floor of commercial buildings to take full advantage of unobstructed natural window light.
The female patient is seated in the new Ritter Pump Dental Chair, first produced in 1919 by the Ritter Dental Manufacturing Company of Rochester, New York. Her child plays on the floor while she is being treated.
The discovery of x-rays and the development of the machines that produced them was the invention of Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895.
In a few short years, diagnostic imaging was being used by physicians and dentists worldwide. The x-ray machine behind the patient, named the "Victor", was produced in 1919 by the Dental Department of the Victor Electric Company in Chicago, Illinois.
Nitrous oxide was introduced in the mid-19th Century and used by many practitioners. The dentist usually prepared the gas and stored it in elaborately decorated containers called "gasometers". One such example is seen against the back wall to the right of the dentist.
The first spittoon to feature running water was the Whitcomb Fountain Spittoon introduced by the S.S. White Company in 1867.
In this rendering, an updated version has running water to cleanse the bowl, a water cannula to rinse the patient's mouth and a suction cannula to evacuate saliva from the patient.
As electricity became more available to offices, so did the electric dental drill. First invented by George F. Green in 1868 and marketed in 1872 by the S.S. White Company, the motor was rather impractically attached directly to the handpiece. Later, the motor was incased in an oval metal container a few feet from the handpiece. Both the dental drill and electric lights were suspended from walls or ceilings by pulleys, allowing the dentist to maneuver them into position for easy access to the patient.
Other equipment included wall-bracketed dental tables upon which instruments were laid. These usually had small drawers containing drill burs and other small instruments. Manufactured dental cabinets eventually replaced homemade versions and an Archer Dental Cabinet from the turn of the century is depicted here.