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As It Was: State Steps in to Regulate Crude Pioneer Dentistry

In pioneer times, people with excruciating toothaches often turned to a blacksmith to pull the offending tooth. By 1887, the Oregon Legislature passed the Dental Practices Act to protect people from untrained dentists.

Dr. Bundy of Medford, Ore., had been a dentist before the law required a license. He passed the dental exams in 1890 after 11 tries, and later became a member of the Oregon State Board of Dental Examiners.

In 1906, twelve of the 29 graduates of Dr. Herbert Miller’s North Pacific Dental College failed to qualify for licenses, including six top students.

Dr. Miller blamed Dr. Bundy. A newspaper quoted Miller as saying, “I have no hesitation in declaring that I believe (Bundy) … to be as unprincipled as he is ignorant, and that he is attempting to use his position on the Board to exact money from those who present themselves for licenses.”

Since all members of the Board of Examiners had to sign off on every license, other members took personal offense and defended Dr. Bundy, saying, “The college students’ papers were good but their work was bad.”

In the end, Bundy stepped down from the board.

Sources: "Makes Grave Charges." Medford Mail 221906: 1. Print; "Dentistry in Oregon." Oregon Encyclopedia. Oregon Historical Society, 2015. Web. 4 Apr. 2015. Path: Oregon Encyclopedia; Dentistry in Oregon.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.