a black and white image of a man sitting in a dentist chair

On the evening of December 22, 1893, a “large attendance of dentists” met at the Golden Eagle Hotel in downtown Sacramento and initiated the first dental society in Sacramento, presently known as SDDS. Although these dentists gave birth to SDDS, the idea of organized dentistry was nothing new to Sacramento. The Society’s first president, E.F. Tebbets was an active participant in the California State Dental Association before leading the Society in its early stages. In addition, H.H. Pierson, who was a member of the California State Dental Association, recognized the potential of a local organization and became another vital member in the Society. Although there is no historical detail on the number of members or other activities of the Society at this time, the idea of localized organized dentistry was evidently popular, as it steadily extended north to the Oregon border, including most of the valley and mountain counties.

According to the minutes from monthly meetings dating back to 1905, there were 16 members who were assessed $1 per member and had total expenditures in the amount of $13.80 during that year. The meetings were held in one member’s office during which activities paralleled many of the common occurrences of the present day; cases were cited and discussions regarding violations of the Board of Examiners laws were not uncommon. Following adjournment, members took advantage of refreshments and the opportunity to share dental and life experiences.

By 1911, the Sacramento Valley District Dental Society had substantially grown, representing Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, Yuba, Sutter, Colusa, Glenn, Butte, Tehama, Shasta, and Siskiyou counties. Due to the substantial growth of membership and the increase in political leverage, the next step was expansion. It was during this time the Society affiliated with the California State Dental Association, adopting the same bylaws. Dues for local, state, and national societies were $9 per year, $2 of which went toward funding for the local society.

In 1911, the Sacramento City School Board established one of the first dental clinics in the United States, which was run by the Dental Society. Dr. Miller was the first dentist to work in the clinic; it was his work that set the clinic up for success. Many dentists including Dr. Bowers, Dr. Reinhart McClusky, and Dr. C.E. Wast followed Dr. Miller and were all successful in keeping the clinic up and running until, in 1929, a religious group forced the closure of the clinic. However, the members of the Society were neither discouraged nor disheartened. During the Depression, members saw the need for dental care for children and used the equipment from the school district’s clinic to establish a new dental clinic. Sacramento dentists staffed this new clinic on a rotating basis. Unfortunately, in 1955, when the city and county health departments merged, it was decided to no longer fund the clinic; making $18,500 of the $6,000,000 budget for the operation of the County Hospital available for dental services.

During the time of prohibition, there were approximately 40 members including one orthodontist and one “exodontist.” The members always took advantage of publicizing and associating with one another, much of which was done at regular meetings and dental gatherings. There was an annual dinner held at the Sacramento Hotel where, apparently, the wine flowed freely and the merits of prohibition were discussed between the drinkers and non-drinkers.

Until the last few decades, the major concentration of dentists had been in downtown Sacramento. In the late teens, most dentists practiced in the William Land Building at 7th & K, the Odd Fellow’s Building at 9th & K, and the People’s Bank Building at 8th & K. The California West Life Building, completed in 1925, served dentists for many years. By 1948, the prime office spaces were in the California West Building, the Forum

Building at 9th and K, and the Medico-Dental Building at 11th & L. Nonetheless, “bungalow” offices in nearby neighborhoods were just beginning to gain popularity.

By 1932, as population in the valley significantly increased, the Sacramento Valley District Dental Society became the Sacramento Dental Society, encompassing Sacramento, Yolo, Sutter, Placer, Nevada, Amador, and El Dorado counties. 71 members belonged to the Society and dues had risen to $15 per year. Sometime during the late 1940’s, scores of other changes began to occur within the dental world; the neighboring Butte-Sierra Dental Society was formed and dues had risen to $41. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that SDDS formally recognized the presently represented five counties: Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, Amador, and El Dorado. By 1970, total membership reached the height of 421 members, including two endodontists, eight periodontists, 15 oral surgeons, 16 pedodontists, and 36 orthodontists. Annual dues were $197!

Several other aspects of the Dental Society emerged with the expansion and set the stage for its continual progress and accomplishments. For example, our newsletter began in 1959 through the efforts of Dr. William Parker. Prior to that, it was a mimeographed sheet of paper of which no copies exist. The Nugget, as it is now called, is a major form of communication, used by many members as a reference.

We have not always been fortunate enough to have our own Dental Society office along with an executive director and staff. According to a brief history by Dr. William Parker, the president of the Society had a separate telephone line installed in his office and received all calls related to Dental Society business. When Dr. Parker became president in 1961, he persuaded Dr. Russ Graehl to chair a telephone committee and install the line in his office. By several accounts, the Society later leased one room somewhere in the downtown area where they installed the telephone line and employed a part-time secretary to receive and direct all calls.

Finally, in 1969, incoming President Dr. Gordon Harris, hired its first Executive Director, Helen Hamilton, while President-elect Dr. Dale Thompson found office space to lease at 21st and O Streets. The office remained at this location until December 17, 1992. During Dr. Martyn Rosa’s term as President, SDDS formulated a plan to purchase its own building. Dr. Rosa spearheaded a campaign to raise money, which lead to the purchase of a building on 915 28th Street in Midtown Sacramento. Every President thereafter participated in the completion of the project that included the remodeling and purchasing of furniture and décor. The building was paid off during Dr. Robert Daby’s term in 1997, and remodeled in 2004. This building served us well until we literally outgrew it!

In May 2013, SDDS relocated to its current office at 2035 Hurley Way. The office doubled in size, and includes a classroom, storage space and free parking!

Kent Daft, DDS, Resident Historian
Martyn Rosa, DDS, “I Have a Dream” Campaign Chair
Gary Ackerman, DDS, 2013 SDDS President

For more SDDS history, view the December 2013 120th Anniversary Issue of The Nugget.