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

The LDS course

19th century student's wooden instrument case (BDA Museum ref: 4051)19th century student's wooden instrument case (BDA Museum ref: 4051)In 1858 the Odontological Society established a committee to plan a Dental School. On 11th June 1858, the Society approved a report written by the committee which included a complete curriculum for the education of dental students and a list of regulations relating to the education of dental students. The curriculum requirements included physiology, surgery, chemistry, metallurgy, dissections, dental anatomy, physiology, mechanics and surgery. Candidates had to be 21 years of age.

Candidates who had been in practice as dentists prior to September 1859 did not have to complete the full curriculum. Instead they could provide the board with their name, age and address and a certificate of ‘moral and professional character’ signed by two members of the Royal College of Surgeons. They also needed to provide details of how long they had been in practice as a dentist, any qualifications they had gained and from which university, membership of societies, whether they carried out any other business alongside dentistry and lastly any particulars of professional education.

LDS certificate awarded to Mr Alfred Coleman, May 1860. LDBDA BDA news 77 (BDA Musuem)LDS certificate awarded to Mr Alfred Coleman, May 1860. LDBDA BDA news 77 (BDA Musuem)The 1874 British Journal of Dental Science supplies advice on how to complete the requirements of the LDS. It notes that the courses of lectures, the dental attendance at a hospital and the mechanical dentistry can all be spread over four years. If this is not practical then it suggests spending two years in an apprenticeship to ‘a competent Dental practitioner’ with time devoted to studying the subjects on the curriculum. The study of mechanical dentistry should also be completed during this time. Then two years would be spent on the courses of lectures and the attendance at a Dental Hospital, with the third year of mechanical study finished between the winter and summer sessions. It gives a timetable which shows how the courses of lectures can be completed in two years.

One of the problems faced by dental students was obtaining the required training in general anatomy and physiology, general medicine and surgery which had to be undertaken in one of the medical teaching hospitals. In the beginning, the students had to tag themselves along on the general medical courses. Accommodating the medical schools timetable also presented a problem. The London School of Dental Surgery solved this problem by holding their lectures and clinical sessions in the mornings and evenings, allowing students to attend the medical school in the afternoons.

Phantom Head (BDA Museum)Phantom Head (BDA Museum)A further reason for holding lectures early in the mornings and late in the evenings was that many of the lecturers and Dental Surgeons employed by the dental schools were offering their time on a voluntary basis. Most were still practising dentists so lectures were held at these times to reduce the time away from their practises. It is unclear what remuneration the staff received. A letter sent to the London School of Dental Surgery in 1902 from Charles Tomes argued that this voluntary system was untenable. Tomes put forward the idea that teaching should be the end in itself rather than a means to another end. The Medical committee considered his comments for two months but there were no changes.

Fees for the courses required by the Royal College of Surgeons could vary from school to school. The fees for the Dental Hospital of London and the London School of Dental Surgery were set out in the 1874 British Journal of Dental Science. The total fee for 2 courses on dental anatomy, 2 courses on dental surgery, 2 courses on mechanical dentistry and one course of Metallurgy was £15 15s. The fee for 2 years dental hospital practice was £15 15s. The fee for additional single courses of lectures was £3 3s, rising to £5 5s for two courses. The Monthly Review of Dental Surgery 1874 includes fee information for the National Dental Hospital and King’s College. The fee for 2 years attendance on the practice of the hospital was £12 12s. The charge for the full course of lectures and dental hospital practice for the LDS at Kings was £95 1s and 6d.

The LDS curriculum changed considerably over the years. In 1890 the Royal College of Surgeons made several changes; some subjects could be completed before registration as a dental student, mechanical dentistry was to be included in the practical examination together with 'the Mechanical and Surgical treatment of the various irregularities of Children’s teeth'.

Dental students were required to take some of the same examinations as a medical student.

Further changes were made in 1900. Practical courses in Dental Metallurgy and Dental Histology were established. Final year students were required to take a course in Dental Surgery Practice (conservative dentistry, extraction and microscopic pathology). A Phantom Head course was also introduced. In 1902 courses in Materia Medica in relation to dentistry and dental bacteriology were added to the requirements. There were also developments in the teaching of dental mechanics with the addition of components from the modern subjects of dental prosthetics and orthodontics.

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