Who Was the First Woman to Practice Dentistry?

Quck answer

The first female dentist was Lucy Hobbs Taylor. She became a dentist in 1866, breaking barriers in a male-dominated profession. Despite facing many challenges and discrimination, Taylor persevered and opened her own dental practice. Her success paved the way for other women to pursue careers in dentistry. Taylor’s legacy is a testament to the determination and resilience of women in challenging societal norms and achieving their goals.


Are you a fan of visiting the dentist? Opening your mouth wide, having your teeth cleaned… maybe receiving a fluoride treatment or getting sealants placed? Perhaps this time you need to have a cavity filled. Hopefully, there’s a reward waiting for you at the end! Going to the dentist may not always be enjoyable, but it’s crucial for the health of your mouth and your entire body. Being a dentist is an extremely important profession. You may have noticed that most dentists are men. Have you ever wondered about the first woman to practice dentistry? And were there any obstacles for women in becoming dentists?

In the past, dentists didn’t attend school to learn their profession. They acquired their skills through apprenticeship with other dentists. Even when dental schools were established in the United States, they didn’t admit female students. Only men were allowed to enroll. The first female dentist in the U.S., Emeline Roberts Jones, learned dentistry through this method. Her husband was a dentist, and she secretly taught herself how to perform dental procedures, such as fillings, on patients he had treated. Eventually, her husband allowed her to join his dental practice. In 1855, she became the first woman to practice dentistry in the U.S. After her husband passed away, she continued her dental practice independently. She also taught her son to become a dentist!

Emeline Roberts Jones became a professional dentist without ever attending dental school. The first woman to graduate from a dental school was Lucy Hobbs Taylor in 1866. Initially, Lucy Hobbs Taylor aspired to become a doctor, but medical schools denied her admission. Initially, dental schools also rejected her as a student. However, one dentist named Jonathan Taft, who served as the Dean of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery, agreed to teach her. She learned dentistry in his office since the college wouldn’t accept her. She established her own practice in 1861. Finally, in 1866, the Ohio College of Dental Surgery allowed her to enroll. By that time, she had already been practicing dentistry for five years! The college only required her to attend one class before granting her graduation.

Emeline Roberts Jones and Lucy Hobbs Taylor faced significant challenges in their pursuit of studying dentistry. Many female dentists, like them, also fought for other women’s rights, such as the right to vote! Women of color faced even greater obstacles in pursuing dentistry. The first Black female dentist was Ida Gray Nelson Rollins. Similar to Lucy Hobbs Taylor, Nelson trained under Jonathan Taft. Taft taught her and encouraged her to attend the University of Michigan dental school. She graduated in 1890 and practiced dentistry in Chicago for many years.

Ready for more groundbreaking achievements? The first Asian American female dentist was Faith Sai So Leong. She was born in China and was adopted as a teenager in the U.S. Her cousin, who was a dentist, inspired her to consider dentistry as a career. In 1905, she graduated from dental school in San Francisco. She practiced dentistry in San Francisco and Oakland, California, dedicating her career to serving the Asian American community.

The first female dentist of Native American descent is Jessica Rickert, a member of the Potawatomi tribe. She completed her dental education at the University of Michigan in 1975 and practiced dentistry for many years. Currently, she is dedicated to assisting other Native American individuals in becoming dentists and collaborates with tribal communities in Michigan to enhance oral healthcare and dental well-being.

These exceptional women dentists not only practiced dentistry, but also achieved remarkable success in their field. Throughout history, there have been numerous other inspiring female dentists. M. Evangeline Jordon, for instance, was among the pioneers in studying children’s dental health and authored the first article on pediatric dentistry. Another dentist, Daisy McGuire, learned dentistry from her father and extracted her first tooth at the age of 6! One can only wonder what the patient’s reaction was to that experience.

Being the first or one of the first individuals to accomplish something can be extremely challenging. These women had to possess unwavering determination to achieve their goals. Firstly, they harbored dreams or aspirations of becoming dentists. Additionally, they required support from their families, friends, or mentors like Jonathan Taft. Lastly, they had to put in immense effort and dedication. Ultimately, their achievements not only benefited them personally but also paved the way for future women dentists. What goals do you aspire to achieve? How will you utilize your success to assist others?

Try It Out

Let’s delve deeper into dentistry and explore more information!

  • With the guidance of an adult, watch either of these videos about traditions related to losing teeth. Following that, create a video using Flip to discuss your own experiences of losing teeth. Did you lose a tooth in a memorable way? What happens when you lose a tooth? Share your video with friends and family and encourage them to share their own tooth stories!
  • Do you have a significant dream, similar to these women? Write a journal entry detailing your future goals. Include specific steps you plan to take in order to achieve your dream. Subsequently, share your ideas with a friend or family member!
  • Let’s expand our knowledge about women dentists! Utilize resources such as the one mentioned or explore materials at your local library to learn more about pioneering female dentists. Afterwards, create an informative poster using Canva or any other materials you have available, highlighting what you have learned!

Wonder Sources

  • https://www.britannica.com/dictionary (accessed 3 Mar., 2023)
  • https://www.sindecusemuseum.org/women-dentists-timeline (accessed 19 Feb. 2023)
  • https://www.sindecusemuseum.org/women-dentists (accessed 19 Feb. 2023)
  • https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/86 (accessed 19 Feb. 2023)
  • https://www.9and10news.com/2020/07/29/breaking-barriers-and-making-history-dr-jessica-rickerts-inspiring-story/ (accessed 19 Feb. 2023)
  • https://perspectivesofchange.hms.harvard.edu/node/125 (accessed 19 Feb. 2023)

FAQ

1. Who was the first female dentist?

The first female dentist was Lucy Hobbs Taylor. She was born on March 14, 1833, in New York, and became a prominent figure in the field of dentistry. Despite facing numerous obstacles and discrimination, she managed to overcome them and pursued her passion for dentistry. In 1866, she became the first woman to graduate from a dental school, the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. Lucy Hobbs Taylor paved the way for future generations of female dentists, breaking barriers and proving that women can excel in the field of dentistry.

2. What challenges did Lucy Hobbs Taylor face as the first female dentist?

As the first female dentist, Lucy Hobbs Taylor faced many challenges and obstacles. In the 19th century, dentistry was predominantly a male-dominated profession, and women were not encouraged to pursue careers in this field. Lucy faced discrimination and resistance from her male colleagues, who were skeptical of her abilities. However, she persevered and proved her competence by delivering excellent dental care to her patients. Her determination and skills helped her overcome these challenges and gain recognition as a successful female dentist.

3. What impact did Lucy Hobbs Taylor have on the field of dentistry?

Lucy Hobbs Taylor had a significant impact on the field of dentistry. As the first female dentist, she broke down gender barriers and paved the way for other women to enter the profession. Her success and achievements challenged the norms and stereotypes of the time, inspiring other women to pursue careers in dentistry. Lucy’s contributions to the field also helped improve dental care and advance the science of dentistry. Her legacy serves as a reminder of the importance of inclusivity and equal opportunities in the dental profession.

4. How did Lucy Hobbs Taylor inspire future generations of female dentists?

Lucy Hobbs Taylor’s journey as the first female dentist served as an inspiration for future generations of women in dentistry. Her determination, resilience, and passion for the profession inspired other women to overcome barriers and pursue their dreams in dentistry. Through her accomplishments, Lucy showed that gender should not limit one’s ability to succeed in any field. Her story continues to motivate aspiring female dentists, reminding them that they can make a significant impact and contribute to the field, just like Lucy did.

5. What is Lucy Hobbs Taylor’s legacy in the dental community?

Lucy Hobbs Taylor’s legacy in the dental community is one of breaking barriers and advocating for gender equality in dentistry. Her achievements opened doors for women who aspired to become dentists, providing them with opportunities that were previously unavailable. Her story serves as a reminder that talent and dedication should be the determining factors in one’s success, regardless of gender. Lucy’s legacy continues to inspire and empower female dentists, encouraging them to strive for excellence and contribute to the advancement of dental care.

6. How has the role of female dentists evolved since Lucy Hobbs Taylor’s time?

Since Lucy Hobbs Taylor’s time, the role of female dentists has evolved significantly. Today, women make up a significant portion of the dental profession and continue to excel in various dental specialties. Female dentists have become leaders, educators, researchers, and innovators in the field. The gender gap has significantly narrowed, and women are now encouraged and supported in pursuing careers in dentistry. Lucy Hobbs Taylor’s pioneering efforts played a crucial role in this evolution, and her legacy continues to inspire and motivate women to achieve success in dentistry.

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