Dr. Barnabas Day: dentist established the ODA in 1867
Realizing the need for healthy and sanitary dental care in the mid-1800s, Barnabas Day organized a group to submit a bill to government, leading to the first regulations on dental profession.
Pick up a box of dental instruments in the 1800s or earlier, set out a shingle with your name and new title, and presto! You could become a dentist. There was no licence to receive, no certificate of training to earn. The patients did not know if you were trained or not, didn’t know if you had knowledge of teeth and gums. Their mouths were trusted to your inexperienced care. Some paid a steep price for that trust, since the man sticking his fingers and dental instruments may have been fresh off the wagon and have no idea what he was doing. Dr. Barnabas Day instigated changes to benefit patients and honest-to-goodness dentists.
Short Apprenticeship for Barnabas Day
In 1855 at age 22, Barnabas Day paid $200 for a year’s apprenticeship under dentist John Sutton in Kingston, Ontario. Sutton moved west six months later, leaving Barnabas short on training but long on enthusiasm. With his dentist’s instruments and at least some experience, he opened a practice, and did his best to provide good dental care to his patients. He was quoted as saying that he was “determined to make no mistake, for I knew in my own mind that I was not qualified,” noted Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Barnabas continued his studies in New York, learning the techniques required to make dentures.
Dr. Day a Trained Dentist and Physician
Expanding his training into medicine in 1858, the young dentist entered medical school at Queen’s College in Kingston, graduating in 1862 as a physician. Barnabas found that the dental profession suffered from disrepute – too many people could call themselves dentists that had no training or expertise whatsoever. There were no regulations, no controls over the proper practice of dentistry; inexperienced drilling, savage tooth extraction and no sanitation could be disastrous. It was a real threat to public welfare and safety. Though several other dentists had tried before to initiate government regulation, Barnabas made another attempt.
Ontario Dental Association 1867
Organizing a meeting of professional dentists in Upper Canada – only nine men came to the gathering of the approximately 175 in Ontario – the group met in Toronto on January 3, 1867. Determined and energized, committees were formed to create an association and by-laws and to address potential legislation. Another meeting in July of the next year lead to the formation of the Ontario Dental Association and Barnabas was named president.
First Dental Legislation in the World
The next January, a bill was prepared and a petition signed and ready to submit to the government, said the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, “by 68 dentists, 28 physicians, one judge, the mayor of Toronto and one druggist.” On March 4, 1868, the bill put forward by Dr. Barnabas Day and the Ontario Dental Association was made into legislation. The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario was incorporated and given “full powers of licensing and regulating dentistry in the province.” The dental legislation was the first to pass in North America, and in the world.
DDS from University of Toronto
In 1875, the RCDSO opened the first official dental school in Canada in Toronto. Beginning in 1888, graduates of the program received Doctor of Dental Surgery degrees upon passing examinations in conjunction with the University of Toronto. The dental school was absorbed by the University of Toronto in 1924, becoming the Faculty of Dentistry.
Dentists with five years practical experience were admitted to the RCDSO without having to return to school. Given admission automatically, Barnabas was also installed as president of the College in 1872. Moving back and forth between Kingston and the United States, Barnabas settled in California, becoming an American citizen in 1887. Dr. Barnabas Day died in Los Angeles, California in 1907.
This article first appeared on Suite101.com on October 28, 2009. (c) Susanna McLeod