Another major addition to the Marquam Hill Campus in the 1950s was the construction of the new School of Dentistry at the base of University Hospital. The facility opened in 1956 and marked a final, solidifying step in the merger of North Pacific Dental College with the University of Oregon. With modern facilities and room to grow, the school expanded training in pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, and periodontics. In 1967 the school launched the Dental Careers Institute, the first in the country. The summer program gave high school and college students an opportunity to explore careers in dentistry. By the 1980s the school became more focused on research and opened a dental clinical research center the following decade.
Early Dental Education in Oregon
The School of Dentistry’s move to Marquam Hill was just the latest development in a proud tradition of dental education in the state. Oregon’s first dental school was established on December 20, 1898. Incorporated as the Oregon College of Dentistry, the school was located in downtown Portland. The following year, the Tacoma College of Dental Surgery, founded in 1893, relocated from Washington to Oregon in search of more students. The two schools merged in 1900 to become North Pacific Dental College. The new school was located in a building at NW Fifteenth Avenue and Couch Street, once occupied by the Willamette University Medical Department. Herbert C. Miller, D.M.D., served as the first dean.
During the first years of the dental school, two years of high school was the only admission requirement for a three-year program that cost $345. New students were advised to bring any extracted teeth they could locate. Early education stressed the role of the dentist as an oral specialist and emphasized the importance of oral surgery. By 1904, students at North Pacific began using the new drug Novocain, found to be far superior to cocaine, the previous choice for local anesthetic. Students also were expected to have a thorough knowledge of metallurgy, as refining and alloying gold and silver were critical parts of the dental practice. In 1911 the college added a school of pharmacy, which was closed thirty years later.
The student body grew steadily in the first decade, and as a result, a new facility was constructed at NE Sixth Avenue and Oregon Street. The school attracted students from across the United States as well as from Canada, Europe, Japan, and China. By 1922, the school received so many applications that entering classes were limited to one hundred students. The following decade, admission to the doctoral program required two years of pre-dental college credits
Affiliation with the University of Oregon
In 1944 the American Dental Association (ADA), following its recent adoption of a new system of accreditation, withheld accreditation from North Pacific because it was not affiliated with a university. To prevent the school from closing, faculty, alumni, and state legislators arranged to incorporate the school into the University of Oregon. Sold to the state, North Pacific became the University of Oregon Dental School in 1945 and received full accreditation three years later.
Harold J. Noyes, D.D.S., M.D., became dean of the dental school in 1946. Two years after his appointment, he introduced the then-revolutionary concept of “vertical curriculum,” which integrated both basic science and clinical courses throughout the four years. Previously, students would take two years of biological sciences, followed by two years of clinical sciences and patient care. Under the new curriculum, the dental school became the first in the nation in which first-year students treated patients. Vertical curricula eventually became the standard approach adopted by dental schools across the country. In 1949, Noyes also added a dental hygiene program to the curriculum.
School of Dentistry Today
After nearly 60 years, the school left Marquam Hill in 2014 and moved into the Skourtes Tower of the OHSU/Oregon University System Robertson Life Sciences Building in the new Schnitzer Campus on Portland's South Waterfront.