About Us

This is designed as a “Living document”. To be updated and corrected when more accurate or detailed information comes to light.

Jeff Annan

The county’s first dental association was formed in Wellington in 1889, but transport and communication difficulties saw its demise two years later. It took the 1904 Dental Act to encourage the establishment of the NZDA as we know it, and see the building of our first Dental School by 1907. Until that time dentists were largely produced by an apprenticeship system with only a few travelling to the UK and America to train in accredited dental schools. The movers and shakers behind the NZDA had the Wellington Dental Association under way as early as 1906. We have the minutes of the 2nd Annual Meeting in 1907. Not only was The Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Dental Association the first to be established in the country, but it’s first President and Vice-President, Mr H P Rawson and Mr A Hoby, also held the top two positions in the first surviving national body. The inaugural NZDA Conference of 1905 was also held in Wellington from June 5 to 8 1905. The new Association’s central aims were;

“the encouragement and diffusion of knowledge in Dental Science, and ….the promotion of the honour and interests of the Dental Profession”

The Conference and indeed the National Office moved from one Branch to another on an annual basis. Residing in Wellington for a period until moving to Auckland under protest in 1956.

In the beginning, the most contentious issues were advertising and unqualified practitioners. Dentists who advertised were excluded from the Association. Only about half of those practising were members and this did not change until the 1930s.

During the last 109 years the Branch has produced fourteen national Presidents and a host of major contributors to the profession. Of particular note in our area have been;

The Dental Research Unit of the Medical Research Council which operated from the Willis St Clinic and latterly the Otago Medical School at Wellington Hospital from 1951-95. Under Directors Dr Tom Ludwig and Dr Terry Cutress the DRU achieved international recognition for research on many topics. These included the implementation of the first national dental survey of adult oral health (SAOH); Dr Grace Suckling’s design of the Development Defects of Enamel Index (DDE), recommended for use by WHO & FDI; The role and mechanism of fluoride action, topical and systemic, in caries control from Dr Ewan Pearce; Dr Terry Cutress initiated and tested the CPITN periodontal index while the “Multiple artificial mouth apparatus for oral microbiological research was the brainchild of Dr Chris Sissons.

The Dental Division of The Department of Health lived for many years in the McCarthy Trust Building on The Terrace. Directors Hunter, Saunders, Bibby, Leslie, Logan and Ritchie drove the School Dental Service and Dental Benefit Programmes for eighty years from 1920. With to a staff of several dentists, detailed dental stats were kept for children and adolescents.

The national fight for Fluoridation was headed by Brigadier J F (Ben) Fuller, National President and local identity. Ben not only travelled the country advocating for CWF but took the message to ten Asian countries for the WHO. Having been in command of the Dental Corp during the second World War, there was little argument when Ben was in the Chair.

Other memorable Branch Members include Dr Dave Watt, our first Periodontist, who was also NZDA President. Dr John Plimmer and Oral Surgeon Donald Adams, who led the Association from 1984 to 86.

It is interesting to note that much of the meeting time in the early 1900s was spent designing ways of treating those not so well off. Either planning dental departments in hospitals or sessions in private practices when no or minimal charges were made. There was also a lot of correspondence with members of the public on fees and treatment. And news of Branch meetings appeared in the local press. The Wellington Branch has always been very active in promoting high standards of practice. In the 1970s when exposure to overseas experts was limited, a Postgraduate Committee was formed and many great speakers were enticed with a little money and some great skiing or fishing.

These short two pages are but a sample of the interesting Branch activities from our last 104 years. I hope we can add to what has been accomplished and also to this chronicle.