King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
The birth of modern dentistry

Guy's Hospital

Portrait of Thomas Bell (Ref: G/PH1/1)Portrait of Thomas Bell (Ref: G/PH1/1)Extract from Guy's Hospital Medical School Prospectus 1876 (Ref: G/PUB2/1)Extract from Guy's Hospital Medical School Prospectus 1876 (Ref: G/PUB2/1)Dental education at Guy’s Hospital began with Joseph Fox who, in 1799, gave a series of lectures on dental surgery. In the same year he was appointed Dental Surgeon and was succeeded, either in 1817 or 1825 by Thomas Bell.

Frederick Newland Pedley was appointed Assistant Dental Surgeon in 1885. He was the son of a dental surgeon and had entered Guy’s as a medical student in 1877. He qualified with the MRCS in 1881 and obtained the LDS from the Royal Dental Hospital between then and 1885.

Newland Pedley was an influential figure in the hospital. That the hospital was mainly providing extractions instead of conservation treatment was of great concern to him so he provided a conservation room with two chairs at his own expense. He strongly advocated the establishment of a dental school within the hospital despite facing strong opposition from both within the hospital and outside of it.

The two dental schools then in London, the Royal Dental Hospital and the National Dental Hospital, insisted that they could provide all the treatment required making a further school unnecessary. Newland Pedley responded to this by flooding the schools with as many patients as he could to try and prove that a further hospital was needed.

Photograph of Frederick Newland-Pedley (Ref: G/PH3/56)Photograph of Frederick Newland-Pedley (Ref: G/PH3/56)Photograph of dental students from Guy's Hospital including Montagu Hopson, [1892]. (Ref: G/PH18/7)Photograph of dental students from Guy's Hospital including Montagu Hopson, [1892]. (Ref: G/PH18/7)Convinced of the benefits of being able to provide students with all the dental, medical and surgical training they required for the LDS in one place, Newland Pedley went to the governors to campaign for a school. He was supported by the Dean E C Perry. A committee was set up to consider this and eight years later Guy’s Hospital Dental School was opened in December 1888.

The first student was Montagu F. Hopson, who enrolled on the 7th February 1889. By October 1889 there were six students with a further sixteen enrolling the year later. The school was housed in a temporary location behind Petersham House. It comprised of one room with 12 wooden operating chairs.

In common with the other dental schools of the time, all the teachers were part time with separate practices. The staff were not paid a salary but benefitted from the honour of being associated with the dental school. It was not until the 1930s that the school began to appoint full time teachers.

List of regulations for the amount of practical work required, 1889-1890 (Ref: G/FP11/1List of regulations for the amount of practical work required, 1889-1890 (Ref: G/FP11/1Photograph of a dental ward at Guy's Hospital, 1907. (Ref: G/PH Dental Ward)Photograph of a dental ward at Guy's Hospital, 1907. (Ref: G/PH Dental Ward)Links between the school and the University of London began to grow and in 1900 the school was recognised as a school of the University. In 1901 the University established the Board of Studies in Dentistry, although initially they did not have a great involvement in the running of Guys, they were involved in later decisions regarding qualifications offered by the school.

In 1909 the school set up its own course in dental mechanics and in the same year opened an out patients department in Maze Pond. Here extractions under general and local anaesthesia were carried out. In 1911 the chemistry, physics and bacteriology laboratories moved out of the building they shared with the dental school and into the medical school. For the first time the dental school occupied the whole of the building and a series of improvements begun. The waiting areas were refurbished and mechanical and metallurgy laboratories were constructed. The conservation room was enlarged to allow over 100 chairs to be installed. In 1913 the Dental Radiographic Department was established.

World War One saw many students leave the hospital to fight. At the end of the War there was a demand for change. One of the major changes concerned how the school was financed and another related to the qualifications the school was to offer. In 1921 the Senate of University approved the establishment of the BDS degree (which had first been awarded in 1901 from the University of Birmingham). However, the BDS degree failed to attract Guy’s students with the majority electing to take the LDS. In fact the first BDS degree wasn’t awarded until 1930 when A R F Thompson became the first student at Guy’s to receive it.

In the 1920s Guy’s introduced Dental Surgery into the Master of Surgery examination in an attempt to bring in a higher qualification. However, very few people were eligible and it was not awarded until 1948. In 1952 the University introduced the Mastership in Dental Surgery.

During the Second World War, the School moved to Sherwood Park in Kent to avoid the bombing of London. The school moved back to London in 1942 and the following years saw a time of great change for the school. In 1948 Guy’s became a NHS hospital which bought changes in financing and organisation. At this time the school also began to admit its first female students. It was obvious that the school needed refurbishment so 105 dental chairs and 55 portable electric engines were purchased from the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Health.

This period saw the beginning of many innovative developments at Guys. The first Department of Preventive Dentistry in a UK dental school was established. Later, in 1971, the first Department of Oral Immunology and Microbiology was set up at a time when immunology was in its infancy. The school was also one of the earliest to establish a Department solely for the purpose of providing dental care for children.

Photograph of a prostethics mechanical lab, 1958 (Ref: G/PH)Photograph of a prostethics mechanical lab, 1958 (Ref: G/PH)Photograph of a demonstration room complete with phantom head, 1958 (Ref: G/PH Pre-clinical class)Photograph of a demonstration room complete with phantom head, 1958 (Ref: G/PH Pre-clinical class)Prior to World War II the dental courses had been very practical and there was a strong emphasis on the learning of facts and little research was being carried out. After the War more full time staff were employed, including a number of academic staff. This saw an increase in research and courses becoming more in depth and with more scientific principles. In the early 1960s it became clear that the accommodation for the dental school was no longer suitable.

The clinical areas were cramped with inadequate research and teaching facilities. At this time the boiler house was being rebuilt with a tower block being built around its chimney. It was decided to house the school on the upper levels of the tower block. Nine floors were allocated to the school and the new spacious, well equipped accommodation meant more postgraduate courses could be offered. The tower was officially opened by the Queen in May 1976.

The beginning of the decline in dental caries in the 1970s saw a fall in the demand for dental services and many newly qualified dentists struggled to find work.

The Department of Health set up the Dental Strategy Review Group who produced two recommendations. Firstly that there should be a 10% decrease in the number of dental undergraduate students and secondly that all undergraduate courses should be under five years duration.

In response to these recommendations the Deans from the dental schools set up the Working Party of Dental Deans to try to find ways to conform to these suggestions. One of their suggestions was that the Royal Dental Hospital of London School of Dental Surgery should amalgamate with the Dental School at Guy’s Hospital of the United School’s of Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospitals and that the United School’s of Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospitals should be known as United Medical Schools.

After much debate and some opposition the merger went ahead on 1st August 1983.

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