OHSU Dental School Graduates 100th Class

06/09/99    Portland, Ore.

Dentistry has changed considerably in the last century

In 1899, two fledgling dental schools opened their doors in Portland, eventually merging to become North Pacific Dental College, the precursor to Oregon Health Sciences University's School of Dentistry. Today, the school will graduate its 100th class of dentists at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Dentistry was hardly the same a century ago as it is today. Cocaine, rather than novacaine was the anesthetic of choice and human-powered foot-treadle drills labored to bore through tooth decay. Dental infection was a leading cause of death in the U.S.

Over the years, Oregon's only dental school has made significant contributions to the dental world. In the early 1950's, faculty members Ken Cantwell, D.M.D., and Jack Clinton, D.M.D., perfected the ultra-high-speed drill. Working with engineers, they revised the mechanics of the instrument so it could spin at 800,000 revolutions per minute, up from the 1,000 rpm of the foot-powered drills. At this speed, the drill bit vaporized tooth enamel and was much steadier and comforting for the patient.

In 1975, OHSU's David Mahler, Ph.D., created the formula for a new silver amalgam filling that became the standard of dentistry until only recently. Beginning in the mid-80s, the school became more focused on dental research, and this year it opened a dental clinical research center dedicated to studying the latest technology and procedures.

The OHSU School of Dentistry is one of only two dental schools in the Northwest and successfully recruits students from Alaska, Idaho and Montana through an in-state tuition program. A remarkable 88 percent of Oregon's active dentists were trained at OHSU. The school is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of its dental hygiene program.

This year's graduating class of 70 dentists and 35 dental hygienists is larger than the 10 graduates of a century ago. But Dean Sharon Turner, D.D.S., one of only two female dental school deans in the country, ensures that these graduates are well prepared.