Internet Explorer and Edge browser users:
To download Word, Excel or PowerPoint files please right-click on the file you wish to download, and select 'Save target as...'

Shaping the new legislation

How the BDA and the Incorporated Dental Society helped shape dental legislation.

BDA versus Incorporated Dental Society

The two most influential organisations in shaping the new legislation were the BDA and Incorporated Dental Society (IDS). The BDA represented formally qualified dentists and the IDS represented dentists practising without a formal qualification. The BDA was responsible for prosecuting unregistered dentists and between 1884 and 1900 prosecuted 62 persons, 55 successfully for using restricted titles and being specially qualified. The defendants were frequently supported by the IDS.




  • Formed in 1880 to be the voice of the qualified profession
  • 1100 members in 1904
  • Published British Dental Journal
  • Organised branches and sections at local level
  • Proposed restricting profession to formally qualified dentists

Incorporated Dental Society (formerly Incorporated Society of Adapters and Extractors of teeth Ltd)

  • Formed in 1892 to represent practitioners with no formal qualification
  • 2421 members in 1904
  • Published Mouth Mirror journal
  • Organised branches and sections at a local level
  • Strict membership criteria to separate them from unscrupulous practitioners.
  • Sought clarity for its members within the law
  • Lobbied for the inclusion of non-formally qualified practitioners in any new legislation


​Legal cases

In addition to the prosecutions, the IDS sought legal clarity of the Dentist Act 1878 for their members through a number of test cases in parliament. These cases debated the terms used by practitioners to describe themselves and their services.


The BDA argued that terms such as American dentistry and painless extractions implied practitioners were specially qualified and therefore in breach of the Act. The decision of the House of Lords in the case of Bellerby V Heyworth and Bowen on 15th April 1910 finally clarified that practitioners were free to use terms such as American dentistry, painless extractions and finest artificial teeth all within the law.

Exterior view of the dental surgery of non formally qualified dentist Mr A Tomlinson, Dentist 1921

Chemist Dentist

Another faction with an interest in new dental legislation was the chemist who also carried out dental treatment. There were 2049 listed as ‘in practice with pharmacy’ on the Dentists Register in 1879 – a significant number. Chemist dentists as they called themselves were well placed in the high street to offer dental services and sell oral health products. 

The extraction of teeth and making of artificial teeth was a lucrative part of their income and chemist dentists were worried that new legislation would prohibit them from working in dentistry. The Chemists’ Dental Society was formed in September 1910 with the aim of protecting the rights of chemist dentists in shaping any new legislation