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2017 is ODA's 150th anniversary


Organized dentistry in Canada has a long and rich history. Up to the 1860s dentistry in Canada was practiced without a license. However, there were dental practitioners who wished to organize and observe the scientific importance of professional organizations. Dr. Barnabas W. Day was one of the practicing dentist and physician from Kingston who wished to regulate dentistry with the creation of a professional association. In 1866, Day mailed a letter to all known dentists in Canada to meet in Toronto and discuss the creation of legislation that would regulate dentistry (Gullett, 1971).

In Toronto, on January 3-5, 1867, the first meeting of dentists occurred at the Queen's Hotel (Shosenberg, 1991). Thus was the beginning of the plans to create the Ontario Dental Association.

The first meeting on January 3, 1867 was not well attended, with only nine dentists present. However, the second meeting held in Cobourg on July 2, 1867 was attended by 31 dentists and the Constitution and By-Laws of the ODA were created. In addition, a bill to legislate dentistry was drafted. On March 4, 1868 the bill became law and the first dental act in the world was passed. This Act (RCDSO, 1868) was important because it created the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO), governed by a Board of Directors elected by the members of the profession (Gullett, 1971, p. 43). This would identify representatives as decision makers and allow regulation of the profession. The establishment of the ODA in 1867 is very important to the development of dentistry as a health profession and for the establishment of the dental school where scientific and technical training could be conducted for those interested in the profession. Here is a description of the professional struggle to legislate, from W. George Beers, LDS, editor of the first dental journal in Canada, Canada Journal of Dental Sciences. This is from his Annual Address to the Quebec Dental Society in 1870:

  “Long after the profession in the United States had emerged from the selfishness of its dark ages, dentistry in Canada continued to lag along in the old style; pupils were indentured in a solemn formality enough to make an armadillo quake; and, in some instances, the innocent student was bound over to open an office on his own account within a hundred miles of his preceptor, nor to reveal to rival dentists the ‘secrets’ he might learn in laboratory and office. Receipt books—then more valuable than now, because of the secrets which had to be purchased, and the illiberal feeling existent—had locks, and well typified the narrow-mindedness of the early times…No doubt the idea of legislating was often discussed in conversation, and everything we have done was probably anticipated by our predecessors who lie under the sod; but what was desirable was not possible, and the early history of our professional showed no prospects of change; --a history which, we trust, will never repeat itself in our Dominion” (Beers, 1870).


Beers, W.G. (1870). Annual address delivered before the Quebec Dental Society. Canada Journal of Dental Sciences 3(2): 36-42.

Gullett, D. W. (1971). A history of dentistry in Canada. Toronto: Published for the Canadian Dental Association by University of Toronto Press.

Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) (1868). Act respecting dentistry. Canada Journal of Dental Sciences 1(1): 23-26.

2017 is ODA's 150th anniversary