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CDA celebrates 150 years of growth and innovation

January 02, 2020 37060

This year marks the California Dental Association’s sesquicentennial anniversary. In celebration of this remarkable milestone, CDA looks back on its bold beginnings and looks forward to the limitless possibilities ahead.

Over 150 years, CDA has innovated and grown to become a community of 27,000 members and the largest state society in the ADA. Its rich heritage is filled with radical ideas that changed dentistry for the better. And it all began with just 23 founding dentists.

What was the catalyst for CDA?

In 1870, Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States, John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Company and Jules Verne published “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” At that time, California was a fledgling state, admitted to the Union in 1850. Dentistry as we know it was a fledgling profession, too. The practice of dentistry was largely unregulated and few practitioners actually attended dental school. Anyone who wanted to could call themselves a dentist or dental surgeon – including barbers, fish sellers and others who practiced part time.

At a time when news was slow to travel, access to training, tools and techniques was difficult. California dentists sought to share knowledge and regulate the profession.

The California Dental Association met for the first time on June 29, 1870, in St. Andrew’s Hall of the YMCA building in San Francisco. Twenty-three dentists signed the constitution on the first day, joined by another nine the next day. The constitution declared that the association’s objectives were to “cultivate the science and art of dentistry and cognate sciences,” to “elevate and sustain the character of the profession,” and to “promote mutual improvement, both professional and social.”

Dentists of high ethics and progressive ideas now had an organization, with a definite place and time to meet, with common goals. They could work together to benefit from one another’s knowledge and ideas, and professional challenges could be navigated on a larger scale and with collective strength.

In the years that followed, CDA transformed what it meant to be a dental association by constantly pursuing new ways to help dentists learn, lead and practice without limits.

What’s next for CDA?

Today, CDA is a dynamic enterprise that encompasses the association, a nonprofit foundation, a dentist-centric insurance company and an e-commerce dental supply company. Here are just a few of the many ways CDA continues to empower dentists as it enters its 150th year:

With the strength of membership, CDA will continue to accomplish amazing things for dentists, patients and the profession.

Be a part of what’s next for CDA members and explore new benefits at

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