By: Erbert W. D'Anton

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: January 17, 2017

Students of master surgeon Pierre Fauchard (1678–1761), the founder of modern dentistry, migrated from France to North America during the mid-to-late 1700s. Don Pedro Lartique, one of Fauchard's students, settled before 1783 in Louisiana, where he practiced for approximately twenty-four years before moving to Texas. On August 7, 1806, the ayuntamiento of San Antonio gave Lartique a license to practice dentistry in Texas. Other dental surgeons immigrated to the Republic of Texas. L. T. Carraway, N. Carson, and H. Marks moved to Houston from northeastern states in 1838. The United States census of 1850 listed 13 dentists in Texas; that of 1860 listed 65; that of 1870, 102. Some of these dentists had learned their craft as students of older, experienced dentists. Others had attended the earliest American dental schools, which were established in Maryland, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania between 1839 and 1852. As the last half of the nineteenth century evolved, an increasing number of formally trained dentists settled in the Lone Star State, many eager to improve the status of their profession. Between 1869 and 1881 they worked steadily to organize themselves into an effective state association. Although they adopted a constitution for the Texas Dental Association in 1869, the state legislature did not charter the group until May 17, 1871. The Austin Dental Association was consolidated with this state organization on May 5, 1881, when the members elected W. S. Carruthers of Galveston president. By 1931, nineteen city or regional societies had affiliated with the Texas Dental Association. Another important step in improving the character of the profession involved the appearance of the Texas Dental Journal in February 1883. It is the oldest dental periodical in the United States and the second oldest in the world. Licensure laws helped to elevate the image of dentistry. The Texas Dental Association established a Committee on Dental Law in May 1882. After seven years of discussion and negotiation, the Texas legislature adopted licensing regulations on March 27, 1889. These required an examination by three reputable dentists appointed by the presiding judge of a judicial district. The Board of Dental Examiners, one of many examining boards, has been composed of more than three dentists since 1905, all appointed by the governor.

Eager to train students "at home," enterprising dentists opened two proprietary schools in 1905: Texas Dental College in Houston and the State Dental College in Dallas. The State Dental College was affiliated with Baylor University in 1918. Texas Dental College became the University of Texas School of Dentistry in 1943 and was renamed the University of Texas Dental Branch in 1958. The new building for the latter school, constructed between 1952 and 1955, received the first educational-television license in the United States. In 1919, UTDB's curriculum expanded to four years. Most matriculants have earned bachelor's degrees, some master's and doctor's degrees. The percentage of female students increased from 3 percent to 48 percent between 1970 and 1994. Ancillary personnel, including dental assistants, dental hygienists, and dental laboratory technicians, have played important roles in the development of dentistry in Texas. The dental assistant, usually female, works directly with the dentist in providing treatment to patients. In 1971 Dean J. V. Olson established a program for training dental assistants at UTDB in Houston. After the legislature adopted a law that licensed dental hygienists to practice under the supervision of a dentist (1952), UTDB started the first academic training program for dental hygienists in Texas (1955). Baylor University also established its Caruth School of Dental Hygiene. Graduates of these schools are qualified to scale and polish teeth, take dental X rays, apply topical medications, apply pit and fissure sealants, make impressions for diagnostic models, and teach patients about proper oral-hygiene methods. The dental laboratory technician fabricates various dental prostheses and restorative appliances. The University of Texas Dental School in San Antonio sponsors a training program for technicians. The University of Texas Dental School in San Antonio, the third in Texas, opened for classes in 1971. Especially since the mid-1900s, dental specialties emerged. All three schools developed postgraduate programs in oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, pediatric dentistry, and prosthodontics. Specialists often associate in group practices, though solo practice is still quite prominent. During the mid-1970s the profession witnessed the emergence of dental clinics, which are not exactly like group practices. In group practices, each member of the group is an independent entity, while in a dental clinic each member is subservient to the owner or owners of the clinic. Health-insurance programs encouraged the formation of clinics. Many clinics advertise and are looked upon with disfavor by practitioners who do not advertise.

Changes in dental practice have occurred primarily through the development of new materials, equipment, and techniques. These include improved local anesthetics, the use of fluorides in drinking water, improved prosthetic materials, and high-speed handpieces. Fluoridation and the use of pit and fissure sealants (fluoridated plastics) to control dental caries have encouraged dental practitioners to practice preventive dentistry. Sumter S. Arnin, former professor and associate dean of graduate studies at UTDB, was a primary force in developing theories of preventive dentistry. The number of dentists licensed to practice in Texas increased from a mere thirteen in 1850 to 10,800 in 1994; Texas is third in the United States. Four dentists from Texas have been presidents of the American Dental Association: Walter H. Scherer, 1944–46; James P. Hollers, 1963–64; L. M. Kennedy, 1974–75; and Jack H. Harris, 1992–93.

Ernest Beerstecher, Jr., The Centennial of Dental Education in Texas (University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, 1972). Ernest Beerstecher, Jr., The History of Dentistry in the Republic of Texas (University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, 1975). E. W. D'Anton, Memories: A History of the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston (University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston-Dental Branch, 1991). Malvin E. Ring, Dentistry: An Illustrated History (New York: Abrams, 1985). Walter C. Stout, The First Hundred Years: A History of Dentistry in Texas (Dallas: Egan, 1969).

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Erbert W. D'Anton, “Dentistry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

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September 1, 1995
January 17, 2017

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