The Texas Dental Association, a constituent of the American Dental Association, was chartered on May 17, 1871. The charter was signed by Texas secretary of state James P. Newcomb and is still the legal document under which the Texas Dental Association operates. The association grew from a meeting of members of the dental profession held on June 16, 1869, in Houston, where a constitution and by-laws were adopted and officers were elected. Dr. Menard M. Michau of Houston, in whose office the meeting took place, was the first president. The first organization of the Texas Dental Association apparently held several meetings, but the first meeting for which official minutes survive was held on September 1, 1873, in Austin, with Dr. G. T. Boardman of Austin presiding. Dr. William G. Kingsbury of San Antonio was elected president for the next year. The members numbered eighteen Texas dentists and twenty-two honorary members from around the country. Until about 1870, the practice of dentistry was more mechanical than scientific. However, advancements at this time, such as the discovery of the relationship between disease and microorganisms, furthered the development of dental science. In the words of the incorporating legislation, the Texas Dental Association was formed to promote "the elevation of the science of dental surgery in the State of Texas to the standard to which it is entitled; the interchange and diffusion of scientific knowledge in the sphere of legitimate practice and to protect the profession and the public against the gross impositions of inexperienced and incompetent persons styling themselves dentists, but who surely know nothing of the practice, and are wholly without authority to operate."
The hardships imposed by Reconstruction, poor communication, and difficulty in travel between 1873 and 1880 resulted in a lack of activity of the first Texas Dental Association. If any meetings were held during these years, records of them are not available. In 1880 the need to organize again as a profession was acute. Rapid growth in the state's economy and population had made conditions favorable for charlatans and quacks. Dr. J. L. Fountain of Bryan and Dr. W. R. Clifton of Waco led the efforts to organize a new state dental society. This group, called the Texas State Dental Association, held its first meeting in Houston on November 25, 1880. Dr. W. S. Carruthers of Galveston was elected president. A subsequent meeting was held on May 5, 1881, in Austin, where the new and original organizations voted unanimously to merge and operate under the original group's 1871 charter. Annual meetings have been held continuously since 1880. Component societies of the Texas Dental Association were approved by the association in 1910. The American Dental Association (then known as the National Dental Association) approved states as constituents in 1913, and the TDA approved this affiliation in 1914. The association had twenty-six component societies in 1994. The official publication of the Texas Dental Association is the Texas Dental Journal. The Journal, established in February 1883, is one of the oldest continuously published dental periodicals in the western hemisphere. Second to the British Dental Journal, it is the oldest such publication in the world. Other American dental journals preceded it, but none is still published. The Texas Dental Association was instrumental in effecting legislation regulating the practice of dentistry in 1889. In 1897 the TDA also achieved its goal to place regulation of the profession under the control of dentists. Dr. G. S. Staples of Sherman was elected president of the first State Board of Dental Examiners (see EXAMINING BOARDS).
Early presidents of the association came from a variety of backgrounds and training. Dr. Samuel Edward Jones, who served as the reorganized association's sixth president in 1885–86, graduated from the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1879. Born in the Republic of Texas, he was the son of Anson Jones, the last president of Texas. His middle name was originally Houston, in honor of Sam Houston, but his father changed it to Edward in 1848 as a result of bitter quarreling between the two former friends. A later president of the association was Houstonian Dr. Ralph C. Cooley, who served in 1938–39. He was regarded as one of the finest clinicians and operators of his era. The Cooley Trophy is now given in his memory at the association's annual state meeting. One of his two sons, Denton Cooley, became an outstanding Houston heart surgeon. Presidents of the Texas Dental Association who later became presidents of the American Dental Association were Walter H. Scherer of Houston (1944–45), James P. Hollers of San Antonio (1963), L. M. Kennedy of Dallas (1974), and Jack H. Harris of Houston (1993). In 1994 the Texas Dental Association had 6,817 members.