School of Dentistry Timeline

School of Dentistry Timeline - Our First 125 Years

School of Dentistry 125th Anniversary

University of Minnesota College of Dentistry was founded as a division of the Department of Medicine. Started with four professors, the College is the 8th university-based dental school in the U.S. Dr. Gainsford Ridgeway is the school’s first graduate.


School’s first dean, William X. Sudduth, introduces hypnotism as an anesthetic in his popular oral surgery lectures. In 1894, patients wishing to have teeth extracted with ether pay a deposit of one dollar on artificial teeth.


In about 1901, the use of X-rays as a diagnostic tool becomes available. In 1905, the school’s operating costs are $21,387, of which half is earned from clinic services.


Fire damages Millard Hall; dental classes resume 10 days later in temporary facilities. In 1916-17, D.D.S. program expands to four years for “preparation of dental surgeons of the best type.”


In 1917, early graduation allows two-third of the dental class to serve in the U.S. Army as first lieutenants in the Dental Reserve Corps. In 1918, the entire class of 90 students enlists.


In 1919, the State of Minnesota started licensing “dental nurses.” In 1920, a two-year dental hygiene program begins. It is the second such educational offering in a U.S. dental school.


In 1926, the average U.S. dental school investment in dental research is $2,955. In 1927, admission to the D.D.S. program required two years of college.


Faculty members conduct research on topical application of fluoride on dental caries. In the same decade, the dental hygiene program moved from a nursing focus to an emphasis on dental hygiene and liberal arts.


In 1941, the leading cause of rejection of WWII military inductees was dental defects. In 1943, the first American Dental Association accreditation team visits the school, which is ranked 6th in the nation.


President Truman signs a law creating the National Institute of Dental Research as a branch of the National Institutes of Health. At his side were two Minnesotans: Carl O. Flagstad (ADA Legislative Chair and School faculty member) and Harvey B. Washburn (ADA president and School alumnus).


By 1951, all states require licensure of dental hygienists. In 1953, School opens Program in Dental Assisting. It is discontinued in 1982 under pressure of budget reductions. In 1957, faculty participate in a community-based oral cancer detection program.


Cleft Palate Clinic moves to the School from Sister Kenny Institute. The clinic provides diagnostic and comprehensive treatment planning services for people with repaired cleft lip and palate and other maxillofacial anomalies.


In 1966, school researcher documents appearance and general structure of Ø29 virus and extends knowledge of basic biology at the molecular level. In 1969, Minnesota is first state to mandate continuing education for dentists and dental hygienists
to maintain licensure.


In 1970, students start free dental clinic at Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul. Ground breaking for new Moos Tower is held in April 1971 (where School relocates in 1973-74). In 1972, University students barricade Washington Ave. to protest the Vietnam War.


In 1980, School starts first interdisciplinary craniofacial pain clinic in U.S. In 1981-82, School creates nation’s first University-based training program in geriatric dentistry. In 1984, School researchers patent a dental unit waterline filter.


Student and faculty volunteers travel to Jamaica to treat patients. In the early 1980s, Jamaican children had one of the highest rates of dental decay in the world.


School receives $2.8 million grant from the National Institute of Dental Research to fund periodontal disease research. In 1988, the Artificial Mouth was a featured exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.

Late 1980s

School alumnus co-develops a prototype sonic toothbrush. By 2000, more than 7 million Sonicare toothbrushes have been sold worldwide.


Dental hygiene becomes a bachelor of science program. In 2001, it is the only dental hygiene baccalaureate program in Minnesota. Also that same year, School receives $2.5 million federal grant to establish Oral Health Clinical Research Center. Research studies cover many subjects, ranging from new treatments and trends to alternative dental materials and toothpastes. In 1993, A History of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry 1888-1988 by Dr. Mellor H. Holland is published.


In 1995, dental students become members of the Minnesota Dental Association’s 8th District Dental Society. In 1996, School launches Migradent program. Using portable dental units, dental and dental hygiene students provide preventive and restorative care to children of migrant workers.


In 1997, School faculty develops 3D Virtual Dental Patient. In the same year, School professor receives the international Premio Phoenix Verdi Award in Genetics. The award is referred to as the Italian Nobel Peace Prize. In 1998, School researcher links bacteria in dental plaque to heart disease.


School receives a $5.1 million research grant to study temporomandibular joint disorders. Also in 2001, School completes “2000x2000x2000 Campaign” designed to increase annual gifts and attract new donors. The five-year campaign plus additional donations generates $7.9 million.


School receives $6 million from NIDCR to develop the Temporomandibular Joint Implant Registry and Repository (TIRR). A separate NIH training grant funds MinnCResT, an interprofessional program to educate craniofacial, dental and oral health researchers. School opens first fixed-site Outreach clinic at Hibbing Community College (in partnership with MnSCU). School also launches UCare Mobile Dental Clinic (in partnership with UCare).


School launches Institute for Molecular Virology, a multi-college institute that promotes basic, clinical and translational research to improve health, with opportunities for research and career development for the next generation of virology researchers.


In 2005, School pilots Give Kids a Smile Day and Outreach becomes a graduation requirement. That same year, School holds town meeting with Willmar area dentists to discuss a request from Rice Memorial Hospital for assistance in meeting oral health needs of the community. In 2006, School launches Program for Advanced Standing Students (PASS) to prepare internationally educated (non-Canadian) dentists for licensure in U.S.


Simulation Clinic opens in April 2007. In December 2007, Rice Regional Dental Clinic opens. The hospital-based clinic is a partnership between the School and Rice Memorial Hospital, with financial support from Delta Dental of Minnesota, the University, HRSA, the State, and community foundations/stakeholders. By 2013, the clinic serves patients in 17 counties. A new Master of Dental Hygiene Program accepts its first class in 2008.


School partners with UMPhysicians and University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview to open a new general practice residency clinic. That same year, School starts the first dental-school based dental therapy program in the U.S. and works with Board of Dentistry to advance new standards for initial licensure of its doctor of dental surgery graduates to practice dentistry in Minnesota.


School partners with Native American Community Clinic to fundraise and open new dental clinic. Students staff clinics starting May 2010. School receives Gies Award for its role in advancing new non patient-based licensure standards.


In 2011, School and UMPhysicians open the state’s most advanced pediatric dental clinic. Clinic is home to the Advanced Education Program in Pediatric Dentistry. In 2013, School receives Gies Award for 30-year partnership between Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics and 3M ESPE.

For more on the School of Dentistry's 125th Anniversary

October 2013 marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. In this article, we look back over a remarkable history and share just some of the entertaining milestones and dramatic changes of those years.


The School of Dentistry launched a number of transformative initiatives in the first 25 years of its second century of service and education.


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  • Last modified on January 7, 2014