Women in den­tistry

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Women have prac­tised den­tistry for cen­turies, ini­tially as tooth- draw­ers. The ear­li­est ev­i­dence of this can be seen in a French print from the late 16th cen­tury de­pict­ing a fe­male den­tist at work.

In 1544, when the bar­ber­sur­geons re­ceived their char­ter from Henry VIII, women were ad­mit­ted un­der the same terms as men. They weren’t, how­ever, al­lowed to wear the liv­ery be­cause that would have en­ti­tled them to a vote in the City of Lon­don.

In 1878, the Den­tists Act barred women from the new Den­tists’ Reg­is­ter. This was be­cause they were re­fused en­try to the den­tal schools and so could not gain the nec­es­sary qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Women did the same as count­less other prac­ti­tion­ers who had not joined the Reg­is­ter – they con­tin­ued to prac­tise, but did not use the term ‘den­tist’ or ‘den­tal sur­geons’ in any of their ad­ver­tise­ments or trade di­rec­to­ries.

Lil­ian Lind­say ( née Mur­ray) be­came the first woman in the UK to qual­ify as a den­tist in 1895, hav­ing stud­ied at Ed­in­burgh Den­tal Hospi­tal. She prac­tised as a den­tist un­til 1920, when she be­came an Hon­orary Li­brar­ian at the Bri­tish Den­tal As­so­ci­a­tion, found­ing the first li­brary there.

English den­tal schools did not ad­mit women to LDS cour­ses un­til 1908 and Lily Fanny Pain was the first fe­male to qual­ify with an English LDS four years later. By 1937, 3.2 per cent of reg­is­tered den­tists were women and by 2020, it’s pre­dicted that over 50 per cent of all UK den­tists will be fe­male.

Fe­male ld den­tistsi are mocked kd by Punch mag­a­zine in 1879

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