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Sindecuse Museum

Timeline of Dental Hygiene

3000 BCE

As early as 3000 BCE, Assyrian cuneiform medical texts mention teeth-cleaning procedures. Toothpicks dating back to this same time have been found in other sites in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq).

1193 - 1164 BCE

Aesculapius, the Roman equivalent of Greek god of medicine and healing Asclepius, was believed to advocate cleansing the mouth and teeth. 

384 - 322 BCE

Greek Philosopher Aristotle, student of Plato, discussed teeth in some of his writings. In "The History of Animals" Book 2 Part 3, he incorrectly wrote that men have more teeth than women.

355 BCE

Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates is the first to recommend a dentifrice powder to clean the teeth.

936 - 1013 CE

Arabian surgeon and author Albucasis was the first to write about the formation of tartar. He designed a set of 14 scrapers to thoroughly clean the teeth.


Pierre Fauchard, often called the "father of modern dentistry," published Le Chirurgien Dentiste (The Surgical Dentist), advising against brushing in favor of cleaning the teeth with a toothpick or a sponge and mixture of water or brandy.


In A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth, Levi Spear Parmley advocated cleaning the teeth with waxed silk, in addition to brushing.


The American Journal of Dental Science prescribes cleaning the teeth with floss silk two or three times per day. This is the first known reference to preventative dental hygiene in an American journal. 


Michigan legislature establishes the University of Michigan College of Dental Surgery, the first dental college associated with a public university.


Willoughby D. Miller determines microorganisms cause dental decay and carries.


Dr. C.M. Wright published "A Plea for a Sub-Specialty in Dentistry," advocating the training and licensing of lay women to assist in dentistry. 


Thaddeus P. Hyatt, called "The Father of Preventative Dentistry," encouraged dentists to not only repair teeth, but to help patients prevent decay. Hyatt became and early advocate for the acceptance of dental hygienists.


Dr. Alfred C. Fones trained Irene Newman as his apprentice, scaling and polishing teeth. 


Dr. E.L. Pettibone gave the first lecture in oral hygiene in a public school. 


Ohio College of Dentistry began a formal program for dental nurses, but the dental community objected so strongly that graduates were not allowed to practice. 


Alfred C. Fones opened the Fones School of Dental Hygiene in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 


Fones began the Bridgeport Demonstration Project, employing graduates from his dental hygiene program to provide dental care in public schools. His first graduates formed the Connecticut Dental Hygienist's Association.


Connecticut became the first state to pass dental hygiene licensure law. Irene Newman, the first person trained by Alfred Fones, becomes the first licensed hygienist. 


The University of Michigan begins offering a one-year dental hygiene program. That same year, the State of Michigan recognizes dental hygiene as a legal profession. 


The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) was founded; annual membership dues were $2.


As a result of the Michigan State Dental Society report on dental hygienists, the University of Michigan Dental Hygiene program was extended to 2 years. 

1940 - 1941

The ADHA recommends that dental hygiene applicants hold high school diplomas and study hygiene for 2 years. 

1950 - 1951

The American Dental Association endorses the U.S. Public Health Department's fluoridation policy.


All states offer licensure programs for dental hygienists.


ADHA removes membership restrictions based on race, creed and color. 


Columbia University offers the first Master's degree in dental hygiene. 


ADHA deletes the word "female" from its constitution and bylaws.


Jack Orio graduates from the University of New Mexico and becomes the first male dental hygienist. That year American Dental Association bylaws were amended to allow equality for male hygienists. 


The first International Symposium on Dental Hygiene was held in Italy.  


Pants are first offered as part of the dental hygienist's uniform, allowing hygienists to sit while working on patients.


Michigan legislature passes a law allowing hygienists to administer local anesthesia if they have completed appropriate coursework.


Hygienists no longer wear caps as part of their uniforms, and pinning ceremonies replace capping ceremonies in dental hygiene education programs. 


The week of September 15-21 was the first National Dental Hygiene Week. 


ADHA  advocates a baccalaureate degree as a minimum requirement to enter the dental hygiene workforce. 


Dental hygienists are allowed to administer local anesthesia in 14 states. 


Michigan legislature passes a law to provide certain services without the assignment of a dentist in certain approved programs for the dentally underserved.  


A 3-year grant from the Bureau of Health Professions and US Department of Health and Human Services establishes the National Center for Dental Hygiene Research.  


ADHA House of Delegates created the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner credential, a mid-level oral health care professional to provide diagnostic, preventative, and restorative care for underserved populations.  


Minnesota passes the first law licensing Advanced Dental Therapists for professionals educated under the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner model at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.


First class of Advanced Dental Therapists graduates from Metropolitan State University and enters the workforce. 


Currently 45 out of 50 states allow dental hygienists to administer local anesthesia.