10 Pioneering Women In Dentistry

Women have a great history as groundbreaking dentists.

Dentistry is one of the leading healthcare fields that offers women an incredible work-life balance. In fact, the ADA reports that a majority of women who enter the dental profession do so because of the balanced lifestyle and how other women help mentor the next generation of female dentists. From 1978 to 2014, the percentage of females entering dental school more than doubled

There are several female dentists who are recognized for leading the way to help create the opportunities we have today. 

1. Emeline Roberts Jones

Emeline Roberts Jones is recognized as the first practicing female dentist. She learned the field from her dentist husband, Dr. Daniel Jones. When he passed away, she continued to practice. She was made an honorary member of the National Dental Association in 1914.

2. Lucy Hobbs Taylor

Lucy Hobbs Taylor is the first female dentist to earn a dental degree in the United States. She initially was a school teacher who wanted to enter the medical profession, but was unable to because of her gender. She was secretly educated and practiced dentistry under the dean’s mentorship at the Ohio School of Dental Surgery, and earned her degree in 1866. She practiced until retirement in 1886 and was an avid supporter of women’s rights. 

3. Ida Gray 

Ida Gray is recognized as the first female African American dentist. She graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1890 and went on to practice in Ohio and Chicago with her husband. She treated people of all backgrounds and inspired people from many diverse groups to enter the dental field. 

4. Clara W. MacNaughton

Dr. MacNaughton graduated from the University of Michigan in 1885 and became one of the most well-known female dentists active in the suffrage movement. In 1889, she became the vice president of the Michigan State Dental Society, which was made up mostly of men. Aside from dentistry, she lobbied for women’s rights, including equal parental rights, prison reform, and equal education. 

5. Minnie Evangeline Jordon

Dr. Jordan is known to have laid the groundwork in the dental specialty of pediatric dentistry. Her career was initially in education and eventually she transitioned into dentistry where she graduated from the University of California in 1898. She started a clinic at the Orphan’s Home and developed a course called “Care of Children’s Teeth.” She is one of the founders of the American Society of Dentistry for Children. Lastly, she is one of the first dentists to recognize “baby bottle decay” and the need for education and training in treating children’s teeth. 

6. Irene Newman

Hygienists are essential in dentistry and Irene Newman is the first female licensed dental hygienist. She trained under her dentist cousin, Dr. Alfred Fones, to perform dental prophylaxis. She graduated in Connecticut in 1917 as a dental hygienist, which eventually led to other states developing hygiene programs. 

7. Elizabeth Morey

Elizabeth Morey practiced dentistry in the 19th century with her husband as both an assistant and dentist. She is known to have created the first dental crown by creating artificial teeth to fit over damaged ones. She was progressive for the time and made strides that have allowed others to develop innovative dental materials. 

8. Jeanne C. Sinkford

Dr. Sinkford graduated from Howard University College of Dentistry in 1958 and eventually earned a PhD, making her the first African American, female prosthodontist with a PhD. She was the first woman in the nation to chair a speciality department and held memberships at various prestigious organizations. She is most recognized for becoming the first female dean of any school when she was appointed dean at Howard University in 1975.

9. Geraldine Morrow

Dr. Geraldine Morrow was the first American Dental Association female president, serving from 1991 to 1992. Aside from her presidency, she was also the first female trustee for the ADA in 1984. She held several titles in organized dentistry throughout her career, but was also in private practice and assisted hygiene programs at the University of Alaska, developing new programs in medical technology. 

10. Effie Habsha 

Dr. Habsha is a dentist in private practice, but is most well known for founding the Women in Dentistry: Work. Life. Balance. organization. She supports females in dentistry by lecturing nationally and internationally on prosthodontic topics, but her organization stresses the importance of a well-balanced life as a female dentist. 

Each of these women has contributed to breaking down barriers, dispelling misconceptions, and advancing dentistry practice. Women in the dental profession today benefit from their legacy and contribute in their own way to the continuation of this worthy profession. If you’re looking to expand your skills at work, consider taking a continuing education course with the American Orthodontic Society. We have an education solution to suit you!

To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.

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