Dentistry: Innovation and education

Online Exhibition

Dentistry: Innovation and education

“From the 1780s, the arrival of European settlers in Australia brought various types of dental practitioners. The prevalent system of dental training was apprenticeship. The year 1884 saw the formation of the Odontological Society of Victoria, which was the catalyst to transforming dental education in Victoria. Under the leadership of member and later president John Iliffe, the society worked assiduously—initially without government funding—to establish a dental hospital and college in Melbourne. In 1890, the Melbourne Dental Hospital commenced its activities, and the Australian College of Dentistry, dedicated to educating dentists, opened in 1897. Several years later, in 1904, a Faculty of Dental Science was established at the University of Melbourne, and thus the college became affiliated with the university.”

- Professor Alastair Sloan, Head of Melbourne Dental School

This exhibition celebrates the 135th Anniversary of the establishment of the Odontological Society of Victoria in 1884, which brought about the development of the first dental school in the State. The organization consisted of a group of trained dentists and was modelled on the Odontological Society of Great Britain, established in 1856. The Australian College of Dentistry established in 1897 and affiliated with the University of Melbourne in a process that formalised dental education and further legitimised dental practice and research.

Showcasing the development of dental practice, education and public health in Victoria through collections including the Henry Forman Atkinson Museum, Medical History Museum, Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch, Royal Dutch Dental Association and the University Museum Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Jacky Healy Introduction

  • Indigenous perspectives

    For 65,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have occupied the lands, with distinct cultural boundaries defined by intimate relationships with Country. There are continuous traditions of healing practice and bush medicine. The Yolngu community has shared their traditions for this exhibition through contemporary art work.

    Image details:
    Mulkun Wirrpanda (b. 1946) language: Dhudi-Djapu
    clan: Dhudi-Djapu / Dha-malamirr moiety: Dhuwa
    artist location: Yirrkala, Northern Territory
    Buṉdjuŋu, 2014
    woodblock, edition 3/25
    81.0 × 57.0 cm
    MHM2017.39, Medical History Museum

  • Dentistry in 18th- and 19th-century Europe

    In Europe, dentistry as a separate discipline emerged in the 19th century. Before this, if we can believe 18th-century genre pieces and engravings, dentists seemed to be extravagant, fraudulent figures who could only pull teeth. However, this image needs to be much more nuanced.

    Image details:
    Meissen Porcelain Factory (Germany, est. 1710); Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706–1775) (sculptor); The tooth breaker, 1741, porcelain, 19.0 × 25.0 × 16.0 cm. KNMT K-770, Royal Dutch Dental Association.

  • Early Dentists in Victoria

    Until the early 1880s, anybody could practise dentistry in Victoria, regardless of their training, skills or experience. In 1884 the Odontological Society of Victoria (later renamed the Australian Dental Association) lobbied strongly for the regulation of the profession, succeeding with the passage of the Dentists’ Act 1887. This established the Dental Board of Victoria, a register of practitioners, and the position of registrar, and also granted authority to conduct examinations to test fitness to practise. Persons who could prove that they had practised dentistry before the passing of the Act could be registered. The following year, unqualified persons were prevented from using the title ‘dentist’ or ‘dental surgeon’, but it was still not an offence for them to practise. In 1909, registration became compulsory for a person to practise in Victoria.

    Dr Ross King AM

  • Creating a profession

    Collectively, the founding members of organised dentistry in Victoria are a shining example of the famous Margaret Mead quote, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’.

    Clinical Associate Professor James Robertson AM

  • Important sites of the Australian School of Dentistry and The Dental Hospital

    Despite a lack of guidance in the Act, the Dental Board, supported by its ginger group, the Odonto, set about formulating an educational curriculum for prospective students. Replacing private apprenticeships and imbuing a sense of ethical professionalism were two of its main aims. However, practical experience was as necessary as theoretical learning, and that required a physical institution.

    Clinical Associate Professor James Robertson AM

  • Students

    In 1912, the Melbourne Dental Students’ Society presented to John Iliffe a photograph of the final-year class. It was a fitting gesture to one of the founding figures of dental education in Victoria, which originated with a professional body seeking to secure a respected program of training for dentists.

    Pranks have always been a part of student life. Looking closely at the conservative laboratory you will see a ‘smoking prohibited’ sign at the back, but many of the students—and even some of the dentures—sport pipes or cigarettes.

    Conservative laboratory, Melbourne Dental Hospital, 1906–07, photograph, 11.4 × 16.7 cm. HFADM 1236.29, Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum, University of Melbourne. Front row, left: Martha Burns sits next to Frances (Fanny) Gray.

  • Women in Dentistry

    Sweden’s Amalia Assur, possibly Europe’s first female dentist (from 1852) was taught the ‘trade’ by her dentist father. America’s Emeline Roberts Jones also carried on the family business, working as a dental assistant to her husband and, with no formal training, maintaining the practice after his death in 1864—something unthinkable today.

    A few years later, Lucy Hobbs Taylor, accused of ‘losing her womanhood’, was the first US woman to obtain a dental qualification, and opened a successful dental practice. In 1865 she gained entry to Ohio Dental College, graduating in a few months—the shortest on record. Lilian Lindsay tried unsuccessfully to enter dental college in London. After working as an apprentice she graduated with honours (1895) in Edinburgh. In Australia, pioneers included Fannie Blanche Innes (Fannie Gray), Melbourne’s first woman dental graduate (1907).

    Associate Professor Mina Borromeo

    Opposite photograph of Dr Fanny Gray examining a soldier’s teeth, c. 1914–16 from the Williams family collection.

  • Techniques and Tools

    Technology has always influenced dentistry. From the development of toothbrushes, to changes in materials used to make dentures, and increasingly sophisticated equipment such as drills and chairs.

  • Dentistry’s role in war

    War is often a time of change for medical practices. At the outbreak of World War I dentists were not included in the Australian Army Medical Corps. Only after the evacuation of soldiers from Gallipoli due to dental problems was the need to rectify this situation acknowledged leading to the recognition of the valuable role of dentistry in Australia’s armed forces.

  • Teeth: Sharing our stories and identities

    Throughout life, the tooth is subject to influences from the outside world, in the form of bacteria, chemicals and physical forces. All of these can and do affect the structure of the tooth, and can tell us about the diet, environmental conditions, activities and health of an individual.

    Dr Rita Hardiman

  • Educators in dentistry

    In 1904 the Australian College of Dentistry affiliated with the University of Melbourne. Since then the educators at the University of Melbourne have been instrumental in the training of dentists and associated professionals.

  • Victorian Department of Health, School Dental Service, Mobile dental unit trailer, c. 1970s, photograph, 20.2 × 25.2 cm. HFADM 3793, Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum, University of Melbourne.
    Public Health Movements

    Dental services located in community health services constantly seek ways to provide care for people who need it most but who cannot, for many reasons, seek care the traditional way. Thus place-based care and opportunistic care emerged and are now accepted practice. Almost a decade after the establishment of the community dental program and Professor Morgan’s initiative, the US surgeon-general called for oral health to be an essential component in the provision of health care and the design of community programs, stating that people ‘cannot be healthy without oral health’.