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New Dental Hygiene Exhibit Unveiled

A new Sindecuse Museum exhibit focusing on the growth and development of dental hygiene as a profession is now on display in the Kellogg Building lobby of the School of Dentistry.

Dental hygienists played an important role in advancing public health.

Ann Arbor, MI — October 3, 2013 — A new exhibit that highlights the growth and development of the dental hygiene profession and dental hygiene education has been unveiled at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.  The Sindecuse Museum exhibit, Dental Hygiene – A Century of Progress, is on display in the Kellogg Building lobby of the School of Dentistry.

“This exhibit is timely because it marks 100 years since dental hygiene was established as an important part of oral health care and the 92nd anniversary of the creation of the dental hygiene curriculum here at Michigan,” said Janet Kinney, director of the School’s dental hygiene program.

The curator of the Sindecuse Museum, Shannon O’Dell, said she received “an incredible amount of help” from graduates of the School’s dental hygiene program.  She said that help and other research revealed dental hygiene grew rapidly as a profession because of the federal government’s efforts in the early 1900s to promote public health.

Because of that push, O’Dell said, “dental hygienists often visited schools and taught students the proper way to take care of their teeth.  These on-site visits generated a new standard for personal responsibility for proper tooth cleaning habits that are now a part of everyday life.”  Over time, dental hygienists have become an increasingly important part of the dental office with a wide range of responsibilities.

Michigan’s Role

Dorothy Hard, the first director of the School of Dentistry’s dental hygiene program, boosted the profile and image of dental hygienists, O’Dell said.  “She insisted women in the program dress and act professionally, wherever they went and whatever they did, to convey a positive image of themselves and their profession.”

Hard directed the School of Dentistry’s dental hygiene program until 1968.  She was succeeded by Pauline Steel (1968-1988), Wendy Kerschbaum (1988-2012) and Kinney (2012 to present).

In addition to these leaders, O’Dell said U-M’s dental hygiene program “was fortunate to have women like Victoria Tondrowski, who had a strong academic and clinical background.”  Tondrowski taught from 1936 to 1969 and was posthumously inducted into the School’s Hall of Honor in 2005.

O’Dell said Melva Baxter, who earned a certificate in dental hygiene from U-M in 1950, “was a wonderful source of information for the exhibit.  Her combined passion for dental hygiene and 26 years of service as the historian for the Michigan Dental Hygienists’ Association were key to our research.”   Linda Plunkett, current historian, also provided valuable insights for the new exhibit.

Dental Hygiene – A Century of Progress will be on display until January 2016.  For more information, contact Shannon O’Dell, Sindecuse Museum curator, at (734) 763-0767, or by e-mail: shannono@umich.edu.