The state's dentists had been meeting in small groups to discuss their common professional problems. The War Between the States had been underway for two years. Young men were coming home in desperate need of dental care. The war quickened interest and accomplishments in many of the scientists. In short, 1863 marked what historians think of as an inevitable moment. The stage had been set – the Society was formed. At that time the organization was known as the Delaware Dental Association. Its officers were Samuel Marshall, president; William G.A. Bonwill, vice president; J.P. O'Daniel, recording secretary; S.D. Nones, corresponding secretary; Charles R. Jefferis, treasurer and William D. Nolen, librarian.
In the years after the Civil War, a dental pioneer, Dr. Thomas L. Buckingham, who was born in Wilmington and practiced in the city for a few years went on to the Philadelphia College of Medicine and later elected as Chair of Mechanical Dentistry in the new Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery. In 1874, Buckingham became president of the American Dental Association.
With more than 30 dentists in the State, the need and desire for camaraderie was stronger than ever. In 1881, the dentists met in the office of Dr. Jefferis and reorganized. An Executive Committee was developed giving the body an interim governing arm. In later years, the Executive Committee and the Officers became the Executive Council. The name of the organization was changed to the Delaware State Dental Society.
The Society declared a policy to have the General Assembly enact a law to regulate the practice of dentistry. The new society would write the law. Active membership would be limited to dentists of the First State. Members had to agree to a code of ethics in their printed announcements and quarterly meetings were planned. The society convinced the Delaware General Assembly that a state examining unit, which became known as the State Board of Dental Examiners, was needed. The members were to be appointed by the Governor from a list submitted by the society. Qualifications included graduation from a reputable dental college or dental department of a reputable university; residence in Delaware for at least five years and a legal license to practice dentistry. Examinations prepared by the board were written, oral and clinical and an average of 75 percent was necessary for certification.
Also in 1885, one of Delaware's leading companies, was started. Organized by Dr. Levin D. Caulk, a native of Camden, Delaware, the company began with the manufacture of gutta-percha, amalgam and cement. Caulk, himself, had practiced in Wilmington and in St. Louis, MO before returning to Camden to organize his business. Today, L.D.Caulk Company, dental suppliers of Milford, is regarded as a high-quality producer of materials used by dentists.
Not long after the U.S. entered World War I, on December 12, 1917, the Society obtained a new certificate of incorporation. This is the certificate that guides the activities of the organization today. The objects and purposes were: "To promote professional and social exchange among dental practitioners and encourage a disposition for investigation on their part in every direction which relates to the principles and practice of the profession."
In early 1931 an Oral Hygiene Division was created within the State Board of Health, employing eight hygienists and a director. The rules of dental practice in Delaware required that hygienists register with the State Board of Dental Examiners.
In the late 1930's, legislative action was passed requiring that a dental graduate spend a year as an intern in a hospital, school or clinic for all dentists wishing to practice in Delaware.
In 1946 the first edition of the NEW LETTER appeared with Dr. S. James Kryger as its editor. It is now the official publication of the Delaware State Dental Society. The announcement of a dental internship worth $50 a month and maintenance was established at the Wilmington General Hospital. DSDS also requested that corporations and schools recognize employee and student absences for dental appointments. Speaker honorariums, for courses and meetings, were set at $50 from New York; $35 from Baltimore and $25 from Philadelphia.
Reports on fluoridation were circulated. The State Board of Dental Examiners was asked to approve experimental sodium fluoride applications by hygienists for one year – so long as the work was done under the jurisdiction of the dentists. An interim report from a US Public Health Service team disclosed that from January 1, 1949 to January 15, 1950, fluorine treatment had been applied to the teeth of about 3,000 public school children throughout the state. By 1956 a report showed an increase of 61.4 per cent in the number of children with caries-free permanent teeth. 1949 was also significant for the start of Inter-Faiths Dental Clinics which operated fulltime with dentists devoting a half-day per month.
Dr. Paul Musselman elected to represent DE on the ADA's Board of Trustees... first time in eight decades DE was represented on the BOT. An Assembly Bill to develop a State Department of Dentistry with a dental director was approved. A proposed group insurance plan for DSDS members was proposed. Federal Scholarship Funds were developed for dental and medical schools. A First Dental Health Fair was held and a Telephone Referral Service had been started with members responding to the public's questions on oral health. Operation Mouth Guard for High Schools was formed. DSDS dues grew from $5.00 to $55.00 and the society represented 174 members, including 154 active, twelve life members and eight associates.