Women’s History Month – in Dentistry
March is a month to celebrate the successes and battles women have overcome throughout history. March is known as Women’s History Month, and Drs. Ken Versman, Doug Heller, and Eric Beckman want to take a moment to travel back in history to review the timeline of women in dentistry and how it has affected us here in Denver, Colorado and worldwide.
Dentistry has been around for many years; however, it has not always been as glamorous as Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman make it today. If you come visit Periodontal Associates in Aurora, Colorado, we greet you refreshments and entertainment, but back in the 18th century, when it was the beginning of the profession, patients were greeted with a storefront covered in a display of old rotten teeth. Dentistry started with local barber-surgeons extracting teeth with no anesthetic. This profession was filled by men only as women were thought to be unskilled and unintelligent. However, the times have changed (thank goodness) and many women are making their mark in the dental field.
A century later, in 1855, Emeline Roberts Jones became the first woman to practice dentistry in the United States. When Emeline was 18 years old she married her husband, Daniel, who was a dentist. Emeline was curious and passionate about her husband’s work, and after learning about her secretly filling and extracting several hundred teeth, he hesitantly allowed her assistant him. Daniel believed women had “frail and clumsy fingers,” but her skilled work for hundreds of patients proved him wrong. She began openly working as his assistant in 1855, and then in 1859 she became his partner, out living and out working him at their dental practice.
Dentistry did not evolve into the industry we know today as a licensed profession until the end of the 19th century, and once it did, women made a rush to become educated and practicing. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first woman to graduate with a dental education, and she made that happen at Ohio Dental College. She first pursued entry to Eclectic College of Medicine, but due to her gender she was denied. She did not get defeated, and instead she pursued dentistry as a means of medicine. Of course, Lucy was also denied admission to dental college as a female pupil. Without a degree, Lucy opened her own practice, and after 4 years of proving her skill and expertise in dentistry, she was allowed entry to the Ohio Dental College in 1865. Just a few months later, Lucy was the first woman to graduate from dental school.
Emeline and Lucy helped pave the way for women in the health field, primarily dentistry, and in 1880 women became more openly admitted into dental colleges. According to a dental survey in 2011, the total pre-doctoral enrollment was at its highest level during the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. This could be due to the ending of the women's liberation and civil rights movements with the new federal assistance in funding grants to encourage women in professional health schools. In 1979, fewer than 2% of working dentists were women, but by the year 2000, 40% of dental students were female. Now and since the year 2009, most dental schools in the U.S. are over 50% women, and the percentage of women students are steadily increasing worldwide. By 2020, it is predicted that 20% of all dental practitioners in the United States will be women.
At Periodontal Associates, we work closely with your general dentist to create an individual treatment whether you need dental implants, gum grafts, or treating Periodntal diease (gum disease). Many of the dentists that refer to Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman are smart and skilled women whom they are honored to work with. During this month of Women’s history, we want to say thank you to all our female colleagues for all your hard work and dedication.
For more information about Periodontal Associates and our doctors: Dr. Ken Versman, Dr. Doug Heller, and Dr. Eric Beckman please call us at (303) 455-7500 or browse our website at www.periodontalhealth.com. Our doctors are specialists in providing dental implants and treating gum disease. We are located in Aurora, Colorado and serve patients from the Denver metro area. We look forward to working with you and giving you a beautiful, healthy smile you deserve.