Milestones in Military Dental History

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As we look toward closing out our Halloween Candy Buyback to benefit our troops for the year, we thought it would be interesting to share some key dates in military dental history for Veterans’ Day.


Jacques Gardette, a French Navy dentist when he arrived in America in 1778, was probably the first medically trained dentist to regularly treat Soldiers fighting for the new nation. As a civilian, he provided dental care in 1780 for the Comte de Rochambeau’s 6,000 man army.


July 1860
The American Dental Association (ADA) held its first convention in Washington D.C. It adopted a resolution to support the appointment of dental officers for the Army and Navy. Organized dentistry continued to press the Army and Congress for military dentistry throughout the American Civil War.

April 1872
William Saunders, a hospital steward at West Point, became the first Soldier to be recognized as a U.S. military dentist. He was directed by Special Orders to provide dental service for cadets and staff of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.


November 1901
African-American hospital steward William A. Birch sent an application for appointment to an Army contract dental surgeon position. Documentation showed that he was a 1900 graduate of Indiana Dental College and had been providing dental services to US Soldiers in the Philippines. Dr. Birch is probably the first African-American to serve as an Army dentist (although officially as an enlisted corpsman) Historians are to date unable to determine who was the first African-American dentist to be commissioned in the U.S. Army Dental Corps.

April 1906
Dr. Leonie von Meusebach-Zasch became the first woman dentist to work for the Army when she was hired to support Army emergency relief for victims of the San Francisco earthquake.

August 1912
The U.S. Navy Dental Corps was established by an Act of Congress in 1912.

September 1916
The first Army dental training school was established at Fort Bliss, El Paso District, Texas by Captain Robert T. Oliver.

U.S. Navy

January 1942, – 31 August 1945
The Army Dental Corps completed the following procedures: 16,231,264 extractions, 69,546,560 restorations, 579,473 full dentures, and 2,032,684 partial dentures.

March 1951
Dr. Helen E. Myers was commissioned into the Army Dental Corps, becoming the first woman to serve as an Army dental officer.

March 1986
The Naval Dental School moved into its new spaces in Building 2 of the Bethesda Complex. What had begun as the Dental Department of the United States Naval Medical School in 1923 has evolved into a state of the art, fully accredited, Naval Graduate Dental School, recognized as one of the best in the world.

Remember, if you still have mounds of candy in your house, spread the love and donate it via our Halloween Candy Buyback through Friday, November 10th. Every pound of candy donated will earn you $1 and you’ll have an opportunity to include a message with the candy as it is distributed to our troops.

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