Who are some famous female dentists?
We don’t generally think of dentists in terms of fame; it’s a bit like naming five celebrated quantity surveyors.
Yet, if we sink our teeth deep enough into the history of all things oral, there have been some extremely notable dentists down the ages, and many of them are women.
Indeed, long before laser procedures, digital x-rays and Zoom! Whitening, some of the great pioneers in dentistry were women. This at a time when, incredibly, women weren’t even allowed to study dentistry, let alone practice it in some countries.
This article celebrates just a few illustrious female dentists who laid the foundations for equality and made major contributions to the personal and professional lives of countless people.
Lucy Hobbs Taylor (1833 – 1910)
Anyone familiar with the history of dentistry will put Lucy Hobbs Taylor on top of their list as she paved the way for all women to make their mark in America and across the world. In an industry made up entirely of men, she was the first woman to graduate as a dentist, this despite having been refused entry to dental school.
Undeterred, Lucy studied privately with an Ohio professor and duly became the first woman to practice dentistry. The best part is that she lived long enough to see her legacy in action – by 1900, nearly 1000 women had followed her inspirational lead and become practicing dentists.
The Lucy Hobbs Award for advancing the role of women in dentistry is now presented annually in her honour.
Anne Elizabeth Delany (1891 – 1995)
Another to fight prejudice and win was the iconic Anne Elizabeth Delany, the first black dentist not only in the USA, but the world. Bessie, as she was affectionately called, was a major influence on black issues of the time. Not only did she show others the way with her successful entry into new dental territory, she provided dental treatment for poor black communities. She was also a vocal and successful advocate of education for black women in America.
If that wasn’t already a big enough contribution for one person, Anne Elizabeth Delany wrote a New York Times bestselling book. She was 101.
Badri Teymourtash (1911 – 1989)
Badri Teymourtash is a legendary figure in dentistry for two hugely important reasons. For a start, she sought her dental qualifications at a time when it was illegal for women to practice dentistry in her native Iran; in fact, believe it or not, it was a criminal offence.
Most people would have settled for a nice, safe, prison-sentence-free job as a housekeeper or something, but not Badri Teymourtash. She fought the law and the law didn’t win; the result, she singlehandedly opened the door for more Iranian women to enter the dental profession.
But wait, there’s more! Not content to merely be a pioneer of change, Badri made an even bigger impact with her huge humanitarian spirit, providing dental treatments and building awareness among the poor.