Sponsored by: South Carolina Dental Association

In the 19th century many groups of practitioners organized themselves into professional societies to establish codes of conduct, define terms of membership, and provide opportunities for continuing education. Organized dentistry in South Carolina began in December 1867 the Charleston Dental Association was established at the office of Dr. J. B. Patrick on Society Street, “for the advancement of our Profession and to engender … good fellowship.” The group met monthly to operate clinics, discuss current practices and the latest techniques, and socialize. Two years later, southern dentists elected to leave the American Dental Association, which had been organized in 1859 in Niagara Falls, New York. The Southern Dental Association, based in Atlanta, represented dentists from throughout the region until 1897. Also, in 1869 the South Carolina State Dental Association was established in Columbia. (The name was later changed to the South Carolina Dental Association in 1953.) In 1928 the SCDA reorganized itself into four districts, now named: Central District Dental Society, Coastal District Dental Society, Pee Dee District Dental Society, and Piedmont District Dental Society.

One of the driving motives of the dentists who started the South Carolina State Dental Association was to address the growing number of “quack” dentists in the state. Formally educated dentists in the state despised these “tooth-pullers” as charlatans who gave dentistry a bad name and harmed the reputations of dentists who were professionally educated and properly credentialed. In 1875 the South Carolina General Assembly passed the state’s first dental practice act which called for “the election of a board of examiners authorized to issue licenses to graduates of accredited dental colleges without examination and to all other applicants upon examination.” This board of examiners and licensure standards helped to reestablish the authority of qualified dentists in the state.

Until the 1960s black dentists were denied membership in the American Dental Association and the South Carolina Dental Association. In 1896 the Palmetto Medical Association, later renamed the Palmetto Medical Dental and Pharmaceutical Association (PMDPA), was founded in South Carolina to serve the state’s African-American physicians, dentists, and pharmacists. In 1932 the National Dental Association (NDA) was established to serve as the national professional dental association for black dentists who were denied membership in the ADA. Still an active organization, the NDA “promotes oral health equity among people of color by harnessing the collective power of its members, advocating for the needs of and mentoring dental students of color, and raising the profile of the profession in our communities.”

In 1965, a year after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA’s House of Delegates required affiliated state and local dental societies to eliminate discriminatory membership practices. The ADA accepted for the first time African Americans who previously had been excluded from membership.


Meeting of the South Carolina Dental Association, c. 1960, The Neill W. Macaulay, DDS Papers, MSS 765, Waring Historical Library, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. Dr. Macaulay is standing at far left.


The Macaulay Dental Museum