Tufts School of Dental Medicine marks 150 years of education, training and research

Left: Working with modern drill at dental school, 1933. (Melville S. Munro Papers) Right: Working in the simulation clinic at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, 2010. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

BOSTON (May 31, 2018)—In 2018, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine is celebrating 150 years of comprehensive dental education, pioneering research, and a commitment to serving its patients and communities.

In the mid-1800s, at a time when dentists included apprentices and even avocational metallurgists, Isaac J. Wetherbee, D.D.S., along with his colleagues at the Massachusetts Dental Society, sought to raise the standards for professional dentistry practice in New England.

On June 3, 1868, Wetherbee, a cofounder of the Massachusetts Dental Society, founded Boston Dental College, later named Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, featuring a curriculum and clinical program focused on providing a scientific foundation and training for dentists. The school also set up an infirmary where students assisted dentists and gained clinical experience and patients received emergency care and routine exams. By the early 1900s, students and faculty were providing around 24,000 treatments to patients each year.

“One hundred fifty years after Dr. Wetherbee declared that quality dental care meant dentists had to be properly trained and have strong scientific and medical backgrounds, Tufts School of Dental Medicine remains true to its mission by providing a comprehensive education through didactic coursework, pre-clinical training, and clinical experience,” said Huw F. Thomas, B.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “Our clinics now provide care at 170,000 appointments per year in the areas of comprehensive, pediatric and specialty dentistry.”

“The school has always been about people—in the classroom, in the labs, in the clinics, and in the community,” Thomas continued.

Since January, the school has hosted a series of educational events for the Tufts community, celebrating junior faculty, student research, community health initiatives, continuing education, and alumni and the global community. There is also a digital museum featuring highlights and artifacts from the first 150 years, as well as a compilation of “150 reasons why we love this school.”

The anniversary will culminate in a gala at the Museum of Science, Boston on September 28. Proceeds from the gala will support the school’s newly-formed Impact Fund, an educational and funding resource created to teach students about and help treat patients with the most challenging oral health care needs.

The School of Dental Medicine, based on Tufts’ Boston Health Sciences campus, is home to innovative research in such areas as:

  • Pioneering work on the relationship between nutrition and oral health.
  • Working to identify a treatment for the rare genetic disease Basal Cell Carcinoma Nevus Syndrome.
  • Using induced pluripotent stem cells to seek out personalized therapies to regenerate and repair damaged tissue and organs.
  • Investigating a method to bioengineer new, living teeth.
  • Testing new dental materials.
  • One of the leading clinics for treating dry mouth and Sjogren’s syndrome.

For more than 40 years the school has managed Tufts Dental Facilities, a network of clinics across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that provides comprehensive oral health care services for individuals with intellectual, developmental and/or physical disabilities; a partnership between the school and the Commonwealth’s Departments of Developmental Services and Public Health, it is the only such network of clinics in the country dedicated to special needs dentistry.


About Tufts University School of Dental Medicine

Founded in 1868, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM) is committed to leadership in education, patient care, research, and community service. Students obtain an interdisciplinary education, integrated with medicine, with access to training in dental specialties. Clinics managed at TUSDM provide quality comprehensive care to approximately 30,000 patients annually, as well as to more than 7,000 patients with disabilities at clinics across Massachusetts. Nationally and internationally, the School promotes health and educational programs and researches new procedures, materials and technologies to improve oral health.

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