“When an achievement lasts so long, and bears such fruit, it provides its own justification.”1
Below is a a brief history of the Ontario Dental Association, as compiled by Dr. James W. Shosenberg, former editor of Ontario Dentist.
Dr. Barnabas Day (pictured), a Kingston dentist and physician circulates a letter to the dentists of Ontario, asking them to join him to create a professional dental association. The outcome of Day’s letter was that, on January 3, 1867, the Dental Association of Canada West is born. On Tuesday, July 2nd that year, the Association changes its name to the Ontario Dental Association to reflect the founding of both the province of Ontario and the Dominion of Canada the previous day, July 1, 1867.2
The purpose of the new Association was described in its constitution:
“This Association is instituted with the view of promoting professional and social intercourse among Dental Practitioners in the Province of Ontario, Dominion of Canada, and to encourage a disposition for investigation on their part in every direction which relates to the principles and practice of the profession and collateral science.”3
The new association is a small one – only nine dentists attend the first meeting – but the strength of its resolve is great.
Within a year of its founding, ODA members successfully pressure the government of Ontario to create the Act Respecting Dentistry, the first legislation in the world to grant self-regulation to dentists.4 That same year, ODA members form the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, the governing body for dentistry.
The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, supported by members of the ODA, opens the first dental school in Canada – today the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto. The new dental school is owned and completely funded by the dentists of Ontario.
The Association convenes its first scientific meeting, held in London, Ont. The meeting becomes an annual event, growing in size each year. Today, that meeting has become the ODA Annual Spring Meeting, which hosts more than 12,000 dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants and other professionals.
ODA members’ strict adherence to a code of professional ethics – on pain of expulsion from the Association – virtually eliminates dishonest professional advertising in Ontario.
1900 – 1910
In the first decade of the 20th century, the ODA – appalled at the condition of Ontarians’ oral health – forms local education committees to instruct Ontarians how to prevent oral disease. When ODA members discover that sugar is the principal ingredient in commercial toothpastes, the association develops and markets its own safe alternative. With the profits, it distributes oral hygiene literature, develops oral hygiene programs and lobbies governments to introduce dental screening programs for schoolchildren. Through its activities to improve the oral health of Ontarians, the ODA lays the foundation for the dental public health programs Ontarians enjoy today.
Pressure from the ODA and other organizations force the City of Toronto to open a six-chair dental clinic to treat city children. It would be the first of many municipally funded dental clinics. Within a year, the educational proficiency of children who receive dental care and oral hygiene instruction through the clinic increases by 54 per cent.
ODA members play a pivotal role in the formation of the Canadian Army Dental Corps. By the end of the war, dentistry’s contribution to the Canadian forces is more than 500 skilled professionals.
The Association successfully lobbies the provincial government to appoint a provincial Director of Dental Services to oversee the oral health of people in the province.
The Association starts its own publication, The Booster, "to encourage a disposition for investigation." In time, this publication becomes Ontario Dentist, a journal which, to this day, continues to provide ODA Dentists with educational information relevant to their profession and the dental practice environment in Ontario.
The ODA forms a Benevolence Committee to help dentists and their families impoverished by the Great Depression. Today, the Association continues to consider individual requests for assistance and may make grants or loans from the ODA Benevolence Fund to dentists, dental students or dependants of dentists who are in need of assistance due to illness, bereavement, accident or other unexpected misfortune.
Nearly 700 Ontario dentists serve in Canada’s armed forces. As the war ends, the ODA provides information to discharged veteran dentists to connect them with communities that require dental practitioners.
ODA members improve oral health by fighting for the fluoridation of water and against the illegal provision of dentures to the public by untrained mechanics.
The ODA proposes a plan calling for an incremental dental care program "to make the benefits of dental health education, preventative dentistry and dental care available to all children and young adults to the age of eighteen."
The ODA introduces a standard patient claim form for use by all insurance carriers to reduce confusion for patients and dentists. It publishes manuals to help dental offices to complete claim forms, and booklets to explain policies and guidelines.
The Association’s NO DENTISTS, NO CAPITATION program defeats an attempt by insurance carriers to limit patients’ right to choose their own dentist and market insured patients to the lowest bidder.
The ODA collaborates with the Canadian Dental Association and other Canadian provinces to develop a national Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network. The network allows dental offices to submit dental insurance claims electronically, saving patients’ and dentists’ time and expense.
The ODA partners with the Canadian Dental Association and dentists from other provinces to demand that the federal government cancel its proposal to tax health and dental benefits. The associations mobilize more than 200,000 Canadians to participate in a letter-writing campaign. The federal government cancels its tax proposal.
Discussions between the Ontario Dental Association and the Ontario Dental Hygiene Association establish a foundation for collaboration where dentists, dental hygienists and other members of the dental team can work together to provide a collaborative system for oral health-care delivery for Ontarians.
In a historic vote, ODA members unanimously approve a new Ontario Dental Association/Canadian Dental Association corporate membership model. The new relationship ends competition for members between the ODA and CDA, and allows both organizations to focus on improving services for dentists and patients.
The Ontario Dental Association leads a fight to reverse a court decision that forbids Ontario’s 250,000 health professionals to treat their spouses on pain of prosecution for sexual abuse. In July 2014, the provincial government relents, allowing dentists to treat their spouses without fear of prosecution.
The loyalty and hard work of more than 8,600 member dentists continues to provide the Ontario Dental Association with the strength and leadership to act as the voice of Ontario dentists in the advancement of oral health care for the people of Ontario.
At the Ontario Dental Association, we provide innovative and inspired leadership to deliver exceptional value by:
To be universally recognized as the most respected leader in the dental profession by all our stakeholders by 2020.