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History of the British Dental Association

​Since its inception in 1880, the BDA has been the voice of dentistry in the UK.

"As long as the need for dentistry exists so long there will be a need for the British Dental Association"

The late Queen Elizabeth II (1967)



​By the mid 19th century there was no unity, organisation or code of ethics for the dental profession. The number of dentists had increased dramatically but there was no control to prevent malpractice and incompetence.

By the 1870s leading dentists including Sir John Tomes and Sir Edwin Saunders (one of Queen Victoria’s dentists) formed the Dental Reform Committee. This Committee campaigned successfully for the first legislation to regulate dentistry.

The Dental Reform Committee also called for a nationwide meeting to establish the BDA in 1879. Finally established in 1880 the BDA elected Sir John Tomes as its first President. Much of the BDA’s early work involved prosecuting dentists in breach of the Dentists Act.

Sir John Tomes, late 19th century

The Dentists Act of 1921 created the Dental Board of the UK to administer the Dentists Register. Thus the BDA was freed from legislation, and rapidly became the leading consultative body and champion for the dental profession – the role of the BDA today.


BDA Secretaries/Chief Executives




1879James Smith TurnerHonorary Secretary
1883Frederick CantonHonorary Secretary
1887Morton A SmaleHonorary Secretary
1890W B PatersonHonorary Secretary
1901W H DolamoreHonorary Secretary
1907Sir Norman BennettHonorary Secretary
1911Sir Frank PearceHonorary Secretary
1918Harold ChapmanHonorary Secretary
1920Robert LindsayDental Secretary
1930C F RilotActing Dental Secretary
1931W G SeniorDental Secretary
1948H Parker BuchananSecretary
1959Jack N PeacockSecretary
1972 (Jan)A C L MackieSecretary
1972 (Dec)RG MacLean & SH RichardsonActing Joint Secretaries
1973Ronald B AllenSecretary
1984Keith JohnsonSecretary
1985E Rankine CrerarActing Secretary
1986Norman WhitehouseSecretary/Chief Executive
1993John HuntSecretary/Chief Executive
2001Ian WylieChief Executive
​2006 (Jan)​Linda Wallace​Acting Chief Executive
2006 (Mar)Peter WardChief Executive
​2020​Martin Woodrow​Chief Executive

Association Honours and Awards

Each year the BDA honours some of the leading dentists who have contributed towards their profession and/or the BDA, in the associations Honours and Awards.