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The Dentists Act 1921

Can you spot the qualified dentist's surgery from the unqualified dentist's surgery? As a patient which practice would you visit and why?


Early legislation

The Dentists Act of 1878 was the first legislation to restrict who could practice dentistry.

'...there is nothing to stop Tom, Dick or Harry setting up as a dental surgeon'

However, rife with loopholes for 40 years afterwards the fledgling profession was full of untrained and unqualified practitioners.


In 1919 the Pall Mall Gazette ran with the headline 'The profession is overrun with quacks' and quoted a leading dentist of the day 'there is nothing to stop Tom, Dick or Harry setting up as a dental surgeon'.


Dentists Act 1921 Exhibition

This display will explore how and why the Dentists Act 1921 came about. Follow the careers of the qualified and unqualified individuals and the organisations which championed their cause as they battled for influence and inclusion in the new act. 


On display for the first time will be a series of photos commissioned by the BDA in 1910 recording the exterior view of unregistered dental practices across the UK in an effort to expose the extent of the problem. 


Find out about the early prosecutions of unqualified practitioners by the BDA.


Trace the work of the Incorporated Dental Society in its representation of unqualified dentists and their organised and powerful response to be included in the act. 


See the epergne presented to Fred Butterfield for his work for the Society and towards the act.


What did the 1921 Dentist Act achieve and how did this dental act shape the future of the profession?


On display outside the BDA lecture theatre and online


May - December 2021


BDA Museum

The BDA Museum has one of the largest collections of dental heritage in the UK. Spanning the 17th to the present day, highlights of the collection include dental chairs, drills, oral hygiene products, and the infamous 'Waterloo' teeth.


The BDA Museum is located at 64 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 8YS, find out more details and our opening times.