A Time In Dental History And In Prosthodontics

Emeline Roberts Jones:

The first woman to practice dentistry in the U.S. The first woman in the United States credited with establishing a dental practice is Emeline Roberts Jones of Connecticut. As a widow of Dr. Daniel Albion Jones, she apparently learned the profession from her late husband, working as his partner in 1859 as “a skillful dentist.”

However, at the time, other women were probably also practicing dentistry without dental degrees. The U.S. Census of 1870 indicates 24 women in the U.S. practiced dentistry.

Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor:

 The first woman to graduate from dental school in the U.S. The first university-affiliated dental college opened in 1840 in Baltimore, Maryland; followed by a large number of freestanding dental schools. The first woman graduated from medical school in 1849, while the first woman dentist, Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor, received a dental degree in 1866 from the Ohio College of Dental.

It was not until the late 1960s and 70s, with the women’s movement that the number of women in the profession began to drastically increase. This increase was mainly due to the federal financial incentive schools received for matriculating women and minorities. As a result, dental schools began to actively recruit this thus far overlooked and mistreated gender.

In 1918, the National Society of Denture Prosthetics was formed, comprised of several distinguished dentists, all interested in the field of prosthetic dentistry. This society was later renamed the Academy of Denture Prosthetics in 1940 and today is known as the Academy of Prosthodontics.

As interest grew, and the discipline of prosthodontics began to evolve, a need to establish a prosthodontics specialty became apparent. Nine fellows from the Academy helped establish the American Board of Prosthodontics (ABP) in 1947 and set the standards and criteria necessary to become a board-certified prosthodontist.

Today, women represent almost 50% of dental schools and as of 2015; almost 30% of dentists working in dentistry are women. A brief look at Advanced Dental Education programs indicates that female enrollment has risen over the past several years as is the case for Advanced Education in Prosthodontics Programs. In 2008, women comprised more than a third of the residents in prosthodontics programs. Based on the most recent ACP membership data, this is now closer to approximately 40%.

Women have made great strides in the dental profession, particularly in the prosthodontics field; however, the gender imbalance remains.  To overcome the gender imbalance and challenges, the talent, hard work, and perseverance of female prosthodontists are the true ingredients to their success.

To conclude, exceptional women have broken down the barriers for future generations by not only being qualified for the job but also being courageous in their first steps. Great strides have been made in the past 150 years since Lucy Hobbs Taylor graduated as the first female dentist in the U.S. While women are confronted by an invisible barrier dubbed the ‘glass ceiling’ when it comes to leadership roles, recent trends indicate that they are beginning to break through the glass and rise above it.

Thus far, many inspirational women have become board-certified prosthodontists.  The first step is always the hard one, and each that follows becomes less difficult; however, room for progress still exists, and the gender imbalance will diminish and one day will be another story in the chapters of our dental history.

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