Since its inception in 1859, the ADA has been dedicated to supporting the dental profession. Explore our history below.

ADA delegates 1864

ADA History

A new millennium 2021-2000

Dr. Raymond A. Cohlmia becomes the ADA’s 9th executive director.


Orofacial pain, and oral medicine, are both recognized as dental specialties by the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards. Twelve dental specialties are now officially recognized by the Commission: dental anesthesiology, dental public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral medicine, orofacial pain, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, and prosthodontics.

COVID-19 pandemic causes widespread shutdowns of businesses, schools, public events, and social gatherings. On March 14 to help slow the spread of the virus Illinois mandates a statewide shutdown and general quarantine order for state residents causing the ADA to close its Chicago headquarters building and direct all but essential staff to work from home.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Center for Dentists is launched on the ADA’s website in April to keep members informed about evolving resources and provide guidance to help dentists navigate the COVID-19 pandemic for their practices, staff, and patients.

Dental Licensure Objective Structured Clinical Examination, or DLOSCE, is launched in June by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. Three years in development by a steering committee formed by the ADA Board of Trustees with broad stakeholder representation, and supported by the ADA Department of Testing Services, DLOSCE is a professionally developed, content-valid national examination that assesses dental licensure candidates’ clinical judgment and skills using sophisticated 3D models instead of involving actual patients and so averting potential ethical issues. The exam is provided to state boards of dentistry to assess a dental licensure candidate’s competency.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic safety concerns the ADA cancels its in-person annual meeting and re-makes it into a virtual meeting, ADA FDC Virtual Connect Conference, a live and on-demand experience and for the first time in its history the ADA House of Delegates meets virtually.


Dr. Chad P. Gehani, the first Indian American to be elected to the office, is installed as ADA President.

Dental anesthesiology is recognized as a dental specialty, based on compliance with ADA Requirements for Recognition of Dental Specialties, by the recently established National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Board, one year after it was founded to oversee specialty recognition for the dental profession.


ADA Constitution & Bylaws is comprehensively revised to make it exclusively a statement of guiding governance precepts whereby directives deemed of a procedural or operational nature are removed and added to the newly established ADA Governance Manual provided for that purpose.

Recognizing the need for a more transparent and objective review process for the establishment of dental specialties which has long been part of the charge of ADA Council on Education and Licensure, the ADA originates the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards, its representation made up of multiple stakeholders and administered by the ADA, to oversee specialty recognition for the dental profession.

ADA Practice Transitions is unveiled by the ADA Business Innovation Group at ADA 2018, a service which manages pilot initiatives to foster relationships between dentists at key transition points in their careers. The first of these include the testing and assessment of an online platform that matches dentists who are looking to join a practice with owners who are seeking a partner, associate or someone to purchase their practice, and the feasibility testing of its purchasing dental practices in order to sell the practices to dentists who express interest after a target period of time.


The Journal of the American Dental Association introduces JADA+ Clinical Scans to make the latest scientific information more accessible to ADA members.

The Scans provide brief overviews of scientific articles’ content and offer a scientific- and evidence-based assessment of the research on trending topics.


ADA commemorates the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct the foundation for its membership’s dedication to providing the highest quality care and utmost professionalism.

ADA marks the 75th anniversary of National Children’s Dental Health Month, the annual national health observance sponsored by the ADA which promotes the benefits of good oral health to children and their caregivers.

ADA Credentialing Service is launched in September, developed to simplify the credentialing process and reduce the administrative burden for dentists. The new technology allows member dentists to enter their credentials and supporting documentation into a securely designed portal through ADA.org, facilitating its availability by request to all payers, including insurance companies, federal agencies, hospitals and employers.

ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations changes name to Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention to be more aligned to its primary focus of advocacy for new or improved access programs and the promotion of community prevention strategies.

ADA Council on ADA Sessions is sunsetted and transformed into an advisory committee directly accountable to the ADA Board of Trustees in order to facilitate the development and management of the ADA annual meeting going forward.

ADA Health Policy Institute releases landmark state-by-state report of a survey of people from across the U.S. about their attitudes toward the importance and value of good oral health. The report is the first of-its-kind to show how seriously oral health issues impact the lives of U.S. adults, linking oral health to physical, social and economic well-being, and to provide robust empirical data for policy makers and other stakeholders.


ADA enters a strategic partnership with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to help prevent opioid drug-related overdoses and deaths complementing the work of the American Medical Association Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse which the ADA joined earlier in the year.


Dr. Maxine Feinberg is installed as ADA President and Dr. Carol Summerhays is chosen ADA President-Elect making this the first time both positions are held by women.

Commission for Continuing Education Provider Recognition is established to oversee the ADA Continuing Education Recognition Program and to develop and implement standards that promote excellence in continuing dental education to support professional competence and continuous improvement of patient care.


ADA Practice Institute is established to provide input on programs, products and services to help ADA-members better operate their dental practices.

The Journal of the American Dental Association commemorates its 100th anniversary.

Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference, a nationwide campaign addressing America's dental health crisis is launched.


ADA launches its consumer website, Mouth Healthy, which is designed to provide patients with timely and credible oral health information on prevention, care and treatment in a highly engaging user experience.

ADA Center for Professional Success is established, an interactive web portal developed for members to access world class practice management content, decision support tools, and other unique business applications, designed to help members practice successfully, learn conveniently and live well.


Dr. Raymond Gist is elected the first African-American president of the ADA.

Dr. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin becomes the ADA’s 8th and first female executive director.

ADA celebrates the 150th anniversary of its founding.


ADA launches its Oral Longevity™ initiative, a multi-faceted three-year campaign to address the oral health needs of older adults.

ADA Library celebrates its eightieth year of service to ADA members.


Family sculpture located in the west court of the headquarters building is temporarily removed and stored off-site while the lobby is renovated.

ADA Foundation launches Our Legacy—Our Future, the nationwide initiative spearheaded by the Foundation to raise awareness of the needs of dental education.

ADA Professional Product Review is launched to assist dentists with product selection for their practices.

ADA Foundation leads a major relief effort to aid dentist victims of Hurricane Katrina.


Dr. Kathleen Roth is elected the second woman president of the ADA.

ADA and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University team up to offer an Executive Management Program for dental professionals.


Dr. Eugene Sekiguchi is elected the first American-Asian president of the ADA.

ADA Health Foundation merges with the ADA Relief Fund, ADA Endowment & Assistance Fund, Inc. and ADA Emergency Fund, Inc. and is renamed ADA Foundation.

First Give Kids A Smile® day is held as part of National Children’s Dental Health Month.


Full text version of the Journal of American Dental Association becomes available in electronic format.

ADA officially recognizes the dental specialty of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology.


Dr. James B. Bramson becomes the ADA’s 7th executive director.

The ADA Legal Adviser becomes the first ADA print publication to be offered to members online only.

20th Century ends 1999-1960

ADA House of Delegates amends the Constitution and Bylaws to add the Treasurer as an elective officer of the Association.


ADA headquarters building is extensively remodeled (including new carpeting, walls, electrical wiring and furniture) culminating in complete renovation of the lobby.


ADA website, ADA ONLINE is launched, later becomes ADA.org.


ADA Health Foundation broadens its mission to include dental research, education and access programs.


Dr. John S. Zapp becomes the ADA’s 6th executive director.

Dr. Kay F. Thompson is elected the first woman trustee of the ADA to serve the 3rd District representing the state of Pennsylvania.

ADA Councils on Communication and Membership are established.


Dr. William E. Allen becomes the ADA’s 5th executive director.

Strategic Planning Committee tackles a variety of issues. ADA leadership addresses needs of women and minority dentists.

ADA sponsors a Licensure Conference.

ADA continues aggressive legislative/legal efforts against Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.


Dr. Geraldine Morrow is elected the first woman president of the ADA.

Dues Equity Plan revises the membership dues structure.

ADA implements an Association-wide Quality Improvement Program.


Dudley the Dinosaur in the animated film Dudley Visits the Dentist, to teach children good oral health care. Many dentists, dental team members, and their families have met Dudley at ADA Annual Sessions and other events in his role of ambassador for the profession.


ADA Commission on the Young Professional is formed (later becomes the New Dentist Committee).


ADA launches National Senior Smile Week to promote the importance of good oral hygiene and dental health to older adults.


Dr. Thomas J. Ginley becomes the ADA’s 4th executive director.

The dental research unit at the National Bureau of Standards is named the Paffenbarger Research Center in honor of Dr. George C. Paffenbarger (the unit’s director for its first fifty years) in recognition of his many contributions to the improvement of dental health care. During his tenure at the unit, Dr. Paffenbarger was instrumental in the development of the high-speed contra-angle handpiece, panoramic x-ray and composite restoration materials.


ADA Washington DC office purchase agreement is signed.


An ADA for-profit subsidiary is established.


ADA Division of Membership and Marketing Services is established.

ADA Health Foundation receives first royalty payment for the use of a patent on composite material.


ADA budgets for national print and television test marketing.

ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation is established.

ADA proposes to acquire a permanent location for its Washington, D.C., office.


Dr. John M. Coady becomes the ADA’s 3rd executive director.

The ADA Council structure is reorganized.

ADA Council on Dental Practice is established.


Court battle with Federal Trade Commission leads the ADA to revise its Code of Conduct & Principles of Ethics relating to advertising.


ADA’s Salable Materials program introduces Dudley the Dragon to teach children proper oral health care. Dudley is featured first in a comic book and then, in the following year, in an animated short film.


ADA News is first published.


Dr. C. Gordon Watson becomes the ADA’s 2nd executive director.

Family sculpture, created by Minnesota artist, Joseph O’Connell, is installed in the west court of the ADA headquarters building.


Dr. Harold Hillenbrand becomes ADA’s first executive director, having served as Secretary since 1946. In 1968, the title was changed to Executive Director denoting more involvement in the day-to-day management of the Association. The Executive Director retains the title and responsibilities of Secretary to the ADA House of Delegates, including the recording of meeting minutes.


ADA Council on Dental Materials and Devices is established (name changed in 1979 to the Council on Dental Materials, Instruments, and Equipment and later merged with other councils to become Council on Scientific Affairs).


ADA headquarters building at 211 East Chicago Avenue is completed and staff moves there in November. The building is dedicated in 1966 with a gala banquet.

ADA moves National Bureau of Standards testing and certification programs to its newly built headquarters building in Chicago; two floors of the new building are devoted to laboratory facilities for the Research Institute.


ADA breaks ground and begins construction on the headquarters building at 211 East Chicago Avenue.

ADA Health Screening Program is first established at Annual Session.

ADA produces the first color television public service announcement by a non-profit health agency.

ADA establishes the ADA Health Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization for the purpose of engaging in dental health research and educational programs.


ADA lobbies in support of the Health Professions Education Assistance Act; one-third of the funds are reserved for dental education activities.

ADA officially recognizes the dental specialty of Endodontics.


ADA establishes accreditation program for dental assistants.


ADA first appropriates funds to assist in the re-training and licensing of Cuban dentists in exile.

Representatives from the ADA participate in the United States Dental Exchange Mission. The group travels throughout the Soviet Union meeting with dentists and touring dental facilities and schools. As part of the Mission, dentists from the U. S. S. R. also travel to the United States and visit ADA headquarters.


ADA enhances members' insurance programs.

ADA lobbies on public health issues including Medicaid and Medicare.

Coming of age 1959-1936

ADA celebrates its 100th Anniversary. The commemoration culminates at the Annual Session held in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Approximately 55,000 attend. The Session is opened to representatives of the world’s dental organizations and schools. The U.S. Post Office issues a special stamp in commemoration of the anniversary.


ADA Headquarters building at 222 Superior Street is expanded and extensively remodeled.

The ADA sponsored research unit at the National Bureau of Standards develops panoramic x-ray equipment and develops glass-filled resin composites, revolutionizing dental restorative materials.


ADA expands the National Children's Dental Health Day to a week and; develops TV advertisements and scripts.

ADA lobbies the World Health Organization to establish a dental unit.


ADA establishes accreditation program for dental hygienists.


Dr. Robert J. Nelsen, principle member of the ADA sponsored research unit at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), develops the first successful, operable high-speed contra-angle hand piece powered through a turbine (the forerunner of the modern hand-piece in current use).


ADA officially recognizes the dental specialty of Dental Public Health.

ADA establishes accreditation programs for postgraduate training and dental laboratory technicians.

At the invitation of the Japanese government with U.S. Defense Department approval, the ADA sends a delegation to Japan to assist in its WWII reconstruction. The delegation inspects dental schools and services, participates in several conferences, presents lectures and attends social functions during the visit.


ADA endorses fluoridation.

ADA officially recognizes the dental specialties of Oral Pathology and Orthodontics.


The first National Children’s Dental Health Day under the auspices of the ADA is observed. The observance is extended to a week in 1955 and then to a month in 1981. In 1950 the ADA works with Congress to proclaim February 6 as National Children's Dental Health Day.


ADA officially recognizes the dental specialties of Pediatric Dentistry and Prosthodontics.

ADA Constitution and Bylaws are comprehensively revised.

ADA Annual Session Reference Committees are established.

There are nineteen ADA Councils


ADA officially recognizes the dental specialties of Oral Surgery and Periodontics, the first specialties to be recognized by the Association.


ADA Council on Dental Education has evaluated and accredited 38 dental schools.


ADA headquarters moves to a larger building at 222 Superior Street in Chicago.


Harold Hillenbrand joins the ADA staff as assistant editor of JADA. He becomes the Secretary of the ADA (the position known as Executive Director today) in 1946 and holds the position for the next two decades, retiring at the end of 1969. During his tenure as Secretary/Executive Director Dr. Hillenbrand leads the ADA in becoming one of the premier professional organizations in the world, during a period of the greatest growth and development that the dental profession has ever known.


Cleveland Dental Society establishes National Children's Dental Health Day. The observance becomes a national observance under the auspices of the ADA in 1949.

During WWII, ADA secures preferential purchase of automobiles, gasoline and dental supplies for civilian dentists.


Under Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor" policy, the ADA extends Annual Session invitations to Latin America, Mexico, and Canada.


ADA Council on Dental Education is formed to oversee the educational standards of dental professionals and the accreditation of dental schools and educational programs.

Growth and development 1935-1910

ADA adopts policies of social principle and ventures into a project with the U.S. Public Health Service to give dental examinations to 1.5 million children in 26 states.

ADA president Dr. C. Willard Camalier addresses political and military issues, and recommends the establishment of a Washington D.C. office.


ADA Council of Dental Therapeutics establishes the ADA's Seal Program and awards the first ADA Seal of Approval to a brand of cod liver oil recommended as a food supplement to promote strong teeth and healthy gums.

ADA establishes its first permanent headquarters building when it relocates its Central Office from rented space to a building it purchased at 212 East Superior Street, Chicago.


ADA has more than 36,000 members, representing about half of U.S. dentists, and 85% of the market share by the end of the 1940s.

ADA Council of Dental Therapeutics is established to oversee the evaluation of dental products (later merged with other councils to become Council on Scientific Affairs).


ADA has 30,000 members.

One-third of ADA members' dues is earmarked for dental research.

The Journal of the American Dental Association is the leading publication in dental literature.

ADA Annual Session meets in Washington, DC, just 20 days before the stock market crash.


ADA establishes a cooperative research program at the National Board of Standards. The unit is given the name Paffenbarger Research Center in 1985.


ADA establishes a Library at its central office to collect and make readily available all the published information of interest to the dental profession and its membership.


The Association assumes its original name, the American Dental Association, and is incorporated.


The Association’s first Central Office is established in a building on North Dearborn Street in Chicago. The office is relocated to North Wabash Avenue in 1922 and to East Washington Street in 1925.


The Journal of the American Dental Association is first published under the title, Bulletin of the National Dental Association.

ADA Relief Fund annual seal fund raising campaign is established. Specially made stamps are distributed as premiums for donations to the Fund 1913-1984 raising millions of dollars for dental practitioners in need due to disaster, accident or illness.


ADA adopts a new Constitution and Bylaws (effective 1913), establishing the House of Delegates, the Board of Trustees and the tripartite membership structure. The Board of Trustees holds its first meeting in July 1913.


ADA joins the Dental Education Council of America, the national organization of dental faculties, to collaborate in unifying standards for the educational requirements of dentists and the accreditation of dental schools.

Foundation and formation 1909-1859

ADA publishes its first patient dental education pamphlet. The pamphlet instructs patients on proper oral hygiene recommending brushing teeth at least twice daily, flossing regularly and twice a year dentist visits.


The ADA Relief Fund is established for the use of dentists who may find themselves in need because of natural or man-made disaster. The Fund originated with the San Francisco Dental Relief Committee, which formed to raise money to help dentists who were caught in the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.


ADA membership policies are revised to expand the organization and attract members.


ADA merges with the Southern Dental Association and changes name to the National Dental Association. The Association’s original name is restored in 1922.


ADA adopts its first Code of Ethics.


ADA’s annual meeting is cancelled due to the onset of the U.S. Civil War.


ADA adopts its first Constitution and Bylaws.


Twenty-six dentists meet in Niagara Falls, New York to form a professional society called the American Dental Association composed of a national representative membership of dentists and dedicated to promoting high professional standards and scientific research.