Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Est. July 17th, 1867

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In the mid nineteenth-century debates arose as to whether dentistry was a medical practice or merely a skilled trade. Until this time dentist either learned their skills through apprenticeship or else just simply set up themselves as self-proclaimed dentists; there really was no formal regulation or licensing for the job. In 1840, however, after the University of Maryland refused to add dentistry to its curriculum, the independent Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was chartered by the state of Maryland in an effort to make the “trade” a medical profession. By 1866 there were four other dental colleges: the Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery (1852), the New York College of Dentistry (1852), the Philadelphia Dental College (1863), and the Missouri Dental College (1866), but none of these, nor the college in Baltimore, were part of any university. The move from “trade school” to medical professional occurred on this day in 1867 when Harvard University opened the doors of its Harvard Dental School, and thus legitimized dentistry.

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