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A turning point

Following the end of the First World War there was a renewed interest in new dental legislation. The BDA recognised there were not enough qualified dentists to treat the population and the Incorporated Dental Society (IDS) recognised that it needed to distance itself from the unscrupulous elements of the profession. With both organisations finally united in their desire to restrict the practise of dentistry there was a push for new dental legislation.

July 1917, Committee appointed to 'Investigate the extent and gravity of the evils connected with the practice of dentistry and dental surgery by persons not qualified under the Dentists Act'.

The Privy Council appointed a committee chaired by The Right Honourable (Sir) Francis Dyke Acland, MP to investigate the situation. The comprehensive investigation heard evidence from 27 witnesses from the representative organisations and medical profession.

The Committee

Sir Francis Dyke Acland - Chairman

Fred Butterfield – Secretary IDS

W H Dolamore – President BDA

Sir C S Tomes – committee member

The Witnesses

Norman Bennett – Chairman of the BDA Representative Board

Richard D Pedley – President School Dentists' Society

Sir D Macalister – Chairman of the General Medical Council

Fred Butterfield – Secretary of the IDS

Its thorough report published in 1919 confirmed:


"Unregistered dental practice constitutes a menace alike to the public health, the registered dental profession and the more reputable unregistered practitioners.


"Dental practice is carried on by the unregistered persons of widely varying grades of social standing, education and training ranging from few fully trained and qualified to old experienced unregistered practitioner to insurance and sewing machine canvassers, the butcher and blacksmith."


Summary of principle recommendations

Very grave evils are associated with the practice of dentistry and dental surgery by persons not qualified under the Dentists Act. The evils are largely responsible for:


  • Lowering the social status and public esteem of the dental profession
  • A great shortage of registered dentists owing to the unattractiveness of the profession.
  • Inability by the general public to distinguish between a registered and unregistered practitioner.
  • The dental treatment of the general public being largely in the hands of uneducated, untrained and unskilled persons.
  • Grave personal injury owing to lack of skill and of technical knowledge.
  • Extractions of sound and only slightly decayed teeth
  • Application of artificial teeth over decayed stumps and into septic mouths
  • The existence in the public mind of the belief that there is no advantage in preserving the natural teeth, and that the correct thing is to let these decay and when trouble arises have all the teeth out and substitute a plate of false ones.
  • There is a great shortage of registered dentists which has intensified since the war.

The committee concluded

'The state cannot afford to allow the health of the workers of the nation to be continuously undermined by dental neglect. Steps should be taken without delay to recognise dentistry as one of the chief means for preventing ill health, and all possible means should be employed for enlightening the public as to the need for conservative treatment of diseased teeth. The dental profession should be treated as one of the outposts of preventive medicine, and as such encouraged and assisted by the state. Treatment should be rendered available for all needing it'.  

The Committee recommended an alteration in the law to secure the prohibition of the practice of dentistry by unregistered persons and a number of other recommendations.