Search the CAOMS members database. Click the Search button below to search for a surgeon by name or location.
The development of oral surgery in Canada has been guided, stimulated and assisted by our colleagues in the United States.
Hullihen (1810-1857) has been credited as being the first specialist
in oral surgery, and is widely regarded as the Father of Oral Surgery on
this continent. Although Dr. Hullihen's degrees were both Honorary,
during 22 years of practice, he operated on cases of hare lip, cleft
palate, and carcinoma; reconstructed jaws, and performed 1100 major head
and neck operations. He was also considered the first to report
correction of mandibular prognathism.
Garretson, born 18 years after Hullihen, must have been greatly
influenced by him. He was Professor of Anatomy at the Philadelphia
College of Anatomy and was appointed Oral Surgeon to the hospital of the
University of Pennsylvania. A gifted and dynamic teacher, he published
the first book on oral surgery, Garretson's System of Oral Surgery,
which ran through six editions between 1869 and 1890.
Garretson's teachings reached far afield, influencing such notables
as Brophy, Gilmer and Cryer. He devised improved methods for operating
on the jaws, including a method of sectioning the jaw for the correction
of prognathism. An anatomist of worldwide reputation, he produced the
chapter on the anatomy of the face and jaws in Gray's Anatomy, and his
own book on facial anatomy is a classic. He also had some 100 papers
published in the Dental Cosmos, a superlative journal that recognized
the significance of oral surgery and which was widely read by dentists
In Canada Dr. George Beers of Montreal is recognized as the first
dentist to specialize in oral surgery. Prior to his death in 1900, he
was widely regarded as the most outstanding dentist that Canada had yet
produced. He founded and edited the Canada Journal of Dental Science, a
publication of high scientific and literary standard for the period. It
provides the only reliable history of the profession in Canada during
the period of its publication.
Oral surgery was the first specialty of dentistry because it is the
only area of dental practice where cases could tum fatal from rampant
infections or severe traumatic injury. Dental practitioners were
grateful to be able to refer such patients to a colleague who
exclusively practised oral surgery, and who could offer the experience
and facilities that would best serve the patient.
Early in the 20th century, the number of dentists restricting their
practice to oral surgery had greatly increased. They were located in the
larger centers of population across Canada, with the exception of
Newfoundland and the central prairie region.
Canada did not offer many dental schools at that time. Consequently,
these pioneer specialists often had to "wing it" alone with the limited
knowledge and training that was available to them at that time.
Some of the pioneers in Canadian oral surgery include: Johnson and
Cox of Vancouver; Henniger of Halifax; Roger McMahon in Montreal; E.W.
Paul in Toronto; George Everett in Hamilton; Roy Beer in Winnipeg and
Doug Coupland in Ottawa. Coupland played a most effective role in
organized dentistry and contributed many fine papers on oral surgery to
Those best remembered for their contributions to teaching include
Henniger at Dalhousie, Beers and McMahon at McGill and Henderson and
Paul at Toronto.
One of the few benefits from World War I was the
knowledge and experience gained by both medicine and surgery through
treating battlefield casualties.
Canada was fortunate in having Fulton Risdon and Carl Waldron
assigned to the Maxillofacial Centre for the Canadian Forces at Sidcup
where they rendered outstanding service despite an overwhelming casualty
Following the war, Risdon retumed to Toronto as a pioneer specialist
in plastic and oral surgery, and was appointed as Professor of Oral
Surgery at the R.C.D.S. He was a resourceful innovator who introduced,
among other things, the Risdon twisted wire arch and intermaxillary
wiring to replace the cumbersome and time-consuming cast cap splints for
the treatment of jaw fractures. He contributed many excellent works to
the early literature of plastic surgery and oral surgery.
Waldron moved to the United States after the war, where he was later
actively involved in establishing the Board of Oral Surgery. He also
served as the first editor of the American Journal of Oral Surgery,
released in 1942.
The Ontario Society of Oral Surgeons was organized about 1930. At
that time, its membership was not large and its activities were quite
World War II also left its impact upon dentistry, as hundreds of
Canadian dentists, uprooted from their practices, witnessed dentistry
applied under war-time conditions in unusual places and under varying
When they returned from overseas, many investigated the feasibility
of returning to their practices through the avenue of a specialty.
Specialization in medicine expanded rapidly in the immediate post-war
years; the same trend was apparent in dentistry.
About this time, Alberta amended its Dental Act so that no person
could declare him or herself to the public as a specialist without
acquiring the stated academic standard. Unfortunately, as no effort was
made to provide the training necessary to meet these standards, the
specialty of oral surgery did not progress as it might have.
In 1944, the Ontario Licensing Board adopted a bylaw requiring a
strict limitation of practice to the specialty and a graduate course of
one year, embracing the necessary biological sciences, anesthesia and
evaluation of clinical competence. It was a time of flux and
uncertainty, but in 1945, the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of
Toronto established such a graduate program.
In the United States, a Board of Oral Surgery was formed, analogous
to the American Board of Surgery offering certification and the
designation of Diplomate to the successful candidates. This training
program involved one year of biological sciences followed by two more
years as an intern and resident in an approved institution. Accompanying
this event was provision for a so-called "grandfather clause" which
enabled established practitioners to achieve the Diplomate status, over a
three-year period, by upgrading themselves to Board standards, all by
In 1954, the Board of Directors of the Ontario Licensing Board
stipulated that the graduate training program in Oral Surgery was to be
three years, with statutory requirements virtually identical to those of
the American Board of Oral Surgery. The following year, the Faculty of
Dentistry at the University of Toronto instituted such a program, which
A major breakthrough for the development of oral surgery occurred
when Chalmers Lyons was appointed Professor of Oral Surgery in both the
medical and dental schools at the University of Michigan.
He served in this dual capacity for over 20 years. Lyons had the
energy and drive to establish a preeminent training program in Oral
Surgery. Under the guidance of Dr. Don Bellinger, the Ford Hospital in
Detroit also instituted an outstanding training program. In the early
1950s, two Canadians were admitted, in succession, to this program - a
major concession to the University of Toronto and Dr. Joe Johnson, then
Professor of Oral Surgery, at a time when Ford Hospital was receiving
100 qualified applications a year from U. S. citizens.
Radiology, oral pathology and anesthesia are three of the foundations
of oral surgery. Until relatively recently, oral pathology was a much
neglected subject. When Kurt Thoma published his mammoth book on oral
pathology, the profession's understanding of this subject took an
enormous leap forward.
Another advance occurred with the release in 1963 of H.M. Worth's
Principles and Practice of Oral Radiological Interpretation. This text,
combined with the clinics he presented across the country, have been
potent influences aiding the progress of oral surgery in Canada.
In the field of anesthesia, the contributions of William Ewing and
staff at Akron; Fred Clement in Toledo; Morgan Allison in Columbus;
Leonard Monheim in Pittsburgh and Mendel Nevin in New York are worthy of
The idea of forming a Canadian Society of Oral Surgeons started with
discussion among members of the Ontario Society of Oral Surgeons. It was
deemed desirable to establish a national forum to discuss surgical
problems, to oversee the rapidly changing format of graduate education
and to speed progress in oral surgery after the pattern demonstrated by
its counterpart in the United States.
An organizational meeting was convened in conjunction with the joint
meeting of the CDA in the fall of 1953. Though notice of this meeting
was publicized widely across Canada, the attendance was disappointingly
small. Nonetheless, pro tem officers were elected and a committee was
formed to draft a constitution.
It was later decided that the annual business and scientific meeting
be held at the same time and place as the annual meeting of the CDA.
This would help connect the oral surgeons with their fellow specialists
across Canada. It also gave exposure of the aims and objectives of the
infant society to the rank and file of Canadian dentists.
The first scientific session was rather meager for lack of funds, but
the second showed much improvement and gave promise for the future. Not
long after its inception, the Society was formally recognized as a
section of the CDA.
The phenomenal growth and success of the Society is due largely to
the initiative, self-sacrifice and dedication of successive Executive
Councils. The load has always been heavy, but has progressively
increased with the growth of the Society.
In 1964, an act to incorporate the Royal College of Dentists of Canada was enacted by the federal government (F.R.C.D.(C)).
Its objective was to provide proof of academic and clinical
excellence, and of adequate training through a rigid, two-part
examination. It also aimed to encourage adequate training programs in
Canadian dental schools. By 1973, three-year training programs in Oral
Surgery were being offered at Dalhousie, McGill, Toronto and Manitoba.
Continued progress in oral surgery depends upon constant renewal by
younger oral surgeons emanating from unassailable teaching programs. It
also relies on the vigilance of the Canadian Association of Oral and
Maxillofacial Surgeons in continually pressing for higher standards in
the profession. Thus far, the success of the organisation has more than
fulfilled the dreams of its founders.
Source: Address by J. H. Johnson, D.D.S.
Professor Emeritus Faculty of Dentistry University of Toronto 1973
Many thanks to Dr. Alva Swanson and Dr. Guy Maranda for their assistance with editing and revision.