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Sindecuse Museum

Choosing a Specialty

Percentages of women enrolled in U.S. advanced dental educational programs 2007-2008

Percentages of women enrolled in U.S. advanced dental educational programs 2007-2008

Women dentists have preferred pediatric and general dentistry for the past 100 years. Today, with a wide variety of post-graduate courses, women are well-represented in most specialties except in oral surgery where they continue to be underrepresented.

Source: Marilyn W. Woolfolk, “Efforts to Increase Student Diversity in Allied, Predoctoral, and Advanced Dental Programs in the United States: A Historical Perspective,” Journal of Dental Education, Vol. 6, no. 1 (2012): 55. Data from American Dental Association Survey Center.

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Percentages of women enrolled in U.S. advanced dental educational programs 2007-2008

Finding the Best Fit

From 1840 to 1900, dental schools focused on basic science and mechanical skills to prepare dentists for general practice. Schools gradually lengthened program requirements as scientific knowledge increased and new techniques were developed. While the University of Michigan offered the first advanced dentistry degree in 1894, only eight dental colleges offered graduate programs by 1935.

At first, dentists specialized by choosing a specific patient clientele or pursuing a technique in which they had a particular interest. Women dentists were considered natural candidates to provide for women and children and many limited their practices to these patients. Today, women dentists fill every specialty and academic role.
 

More Information

Visit the links below to read more about these women dentists and learn about their specialties.

 

Carrie Marsden Stewart (1871-1947)
DDS 1892, DDSc 1894 University of Michigan

Carrie Marsden Stewart

I am not working on any more men. I have all the women patients I can attend to and prefer to work on them.

Carrie Marsden Stewart, in a 1914 letter to a relative. Photo courtesy of the family of Carrie Marsden Stewart.
Two Firsts

The University of Michigan established the first graduate dental program in 1894, and its first graduate was Carrie Marsden Stewart. Having earned her DDS from the University of Michigan, she spent the next year at Michigan “pursuing advanced work in biology and practical work in bacteriology and physiology, as well as clinical work in the operating department.”

Finding Her Niche

Stewart opened a practice in Ypsilanti before moving to Wichita Falls, Texas where she married and then divorced in 1917. Unencumbered by children, Stewart continued to practice. She seems to have treated only women.