June 2013

Happy Anniversary Dental Hygienists!

Thank you for 100 years of promoting oral health and wellness!

Before there was a Dental Hygiene profession, a trip to the dentist consisted mostly of filling cavities and pulling teeth, and who knows what type of anesthetic was available! I've read that 100 years ago, over 50% of all American adults were completely edentulous. Today that figure is less than 10%, and visit to the dental office is much more pleasant! I can think of few other professions that have seen this type of progress. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of dental hygiene, on behalf of Water Pik, I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all the dental hygienists who have made our lives better!

Sincerely,

Jay McCulloch,
Vice President of Marketing, Oral Care
Water Pik, Inc

Carla Gantz, RDH

100 Years - A Time to Reflect & Celebrate

"We turn not older with years, but newer every day."
- Emily Dickenson

As most of us know, Dr. Alfred C. Fones is recognized as the founding father of dental hygiene. His belief that oral cleanliness was important to the prevention of disease lead him to train his assistant (and cousin), Irene Newman in the duties of dental hygiene. In 1913, Dr. Fones, assisted by Ms. Newman, opened the first school of dental hygiene in Bridgeport, CT. Irene Newman became the first licensed hygienist and the first president of the Connecticut Dental Hygienists' Association.1

What is often forgotten about some of our nation's first dental hygienists is that their primary work setting was not private practice; instead it was the grade school classrooms of the Bridgeport School system. Within a few years, school children who received preventive care from these dental hygienists (and who once had been found to have an average of 7 decayed teeth) experienced a 33.9% reduction in decay.1

100 years later prevention and public health continue to be the foundation of the dental hygiene profession. Even though private practice is now the mainstay for most dental hygienists, public health opportunities are expanding. Today, dental hygienists work in a variety of different public health settings from running school-based sealant programs and mobile geriatric units to directing and managing county and state public health departments.

When asked about her role in the development of dental hygiene, Irene Newman was quoted as modestly answering "I didn't think a thing of it. The work was there to do, and I did it."Today, the profession of dental hygiene thrives because of people like Irene who simply 'do it.'The passion and dedication of the people who call themselves dental hygienists keeps the professional vital and flourishing.100 years is an important milestone, and one well worth celebrating.


  1. Risom L. Dental hygiene at 100. Access, Jan 2013; available at: pubs.royle.com/display_article.php?id=1272488