Celebrating the Most Influential Women in Dentistry

Recognizing exceptional women in dentistry is vital for inspiring future generations.

By Theresa Ahearn

Dentistry has experienced a remarkable transformation over the years, evolving from a male-dominated profession to one with significant female representation. Today, women constitute nearly half (48%) of practicing dentists, a striking contrast to the early days of the profession. Moreover, women overwhelmingly dominate the fields of dental hygiene and dental assisting, with a remarkable 95% representation. This shift signifies more than just numerical achievements; it marks a change in attitudes and greater acceptance of women in roles traditionally dominated by men.

The notable increase in women’s representation in dentistry honors the legacy of pioneering women who overcame societal biases and institutional hurdles. These trailblazers not only carved out successful careers for themselves but also laid the foundation for future generations, transforming dentistry into an accessible and attainable field for women, where it was once nearly impossible.

Pioneering Women in Dentistry

Emeline Roberts Jones: A pioneer in dentistry, Emeline Roberts Jones emerged during an era when the concept of a female dentist was met with skepticism. She refined her skills and demonstrated her capabilities alongside her husband, Dr. Daniel Jones, earning recognition as the world's first practicing female dentist. After her husband's passing, she traveled across America to provide dental care. Her contributions to pediatric dentistry, particularly in developing specialized techniques and tools for younger patients, broke gender barriers and contributed significantly to the profession’s acceptance of women.

Lucy Hobbs Taylor: Orphaned at 12, Lucy Hobbs Taylor faced numerous adversities but remained steadfast. Despite institutional barriers, she became the first woman to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1866. Her journey included private tutoring, establishing her own practice, and eventually gaining acceptance into the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. Post-graduation, she advocated for dental hygiene in schools and established a scholarship for women in dentistry. Her international recognition and advocacy significantly influenced the profession’s inclusivity.

Amalia Assur: As one of Sweden's first female dentists, Amalia Assur broke gender barriers in a predominantly male field. In 1852, she received special permission from the Swedish King to practice dentistry, marking a significant milestone for women in the medical profession.

Ida Gray Nelson Rollins: Born in 1867, Ida Gray Nelson Rollins became the first African-American woman to earn a dental surgery degree. Overcoming racial and gender barriers, she graduated from the University of Michigan's Dental College in 1890. After becoming Chicago's first African-American female dentist, Rollins later established her dental practice in Cincinnati. Her career, marked by resilience and pioneering spirit, serves as an inspiring example of overcoming adversity.

Minnie Evangeline Jordan: In 1898, Minnie Evangeline Jordan became the first U.S. dentist specializing in pediatric dentistry. Her work laid the groundwork for Pedodontics, focusing on improving pediatric dental care and developing new techniques.

Badri Teymourtash: Born in 1908, Badri Teymourtash overcame personal and political challenges to become a significant figure in Iranian dentistry. She co-founded Mashhad University’s School of Dentistry in 1965, serving as its first president and impacting dental education in Iran significantly.

Geraldine Morrow: As the first female president of the American Dental Association in 1991, Geraldine Morrow championed equality and inclusion in dentistry. Her leadership and advocacy inspired countless women in the profession. Morrow's presidential campaign in 1990, supported by the American Association of Women Dentists, was a pivotal moment in the field.

Jeanne C. Sinkford: Jeanne Sinkford's leadership and advocacy for diversity and equality have been transformative in dentistry. As the first woman dean of Howard University College of Dentistry (1975-1991), she has been a staunch advocate for increasing diversity in the dental profession.


These extraordinary women, defying societal norms and obstacles, have left a lasting impact on dentistry. Their achievements have paved the way for the increasing number of female dental students and professionals. It’s crucial for the dental community to pause to recognize their contributions and continue supporting and empowering women in dentistry. By doing so, we not only honor their past achievements but also pave the way for a brighter and more inclusive future for the dental profession.

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Author: Theresa Ahearn is a freelance writer currently residing in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the New York Institute of Technology and her Master of Science from Central Connecticut State University.

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