In honour of Vimy Ridge Day, we wanted to share a bit of Canadian military history with you. Did you know that dentistry and the military have a relationship that dates back to the 17th century? In honour of Vimy Ridge Day, let’s remember the soldiers who fought in World War I as well as the dentistry teams that were on the front with them, and with all soldiers throughout Canadian history.
The Boer War
Canadian military dentistry starts with the Boer War. Reports that participating soldiers from all countries were suffering from defective teeth began to surface and more that 2,000 men returned to the UK from this war on dental grounds alone. This experience led to the founding of the Canadian Dental Association.
World War I
Soon after the declaration of World War I, the Canadian service realized that too many potential recruits were being denied due to dental reasons. Dentists were asked to volunteer to assist, but their organization was inadequate. By spring of 1915, the Canadian Army Dental Corps was established and the first military dental clinic in the British Empire opened in Toronto.
By the end of the First World War, Canadian military dentists performed over 2 million dental procedures! Sir Cuthbert Wallace was a British Army dental consultant who said, “The Canadians have a very perfect dental organization. The British service might well copy the Canadians.”
World War II
By 1938, the threat of war was looming again in Europe so the CDA provided an in-depth analysis on military dentistry and recommended that they should act as an autonomous military unit. Canadian dentists served on the fields in mobile dental clinics and provided comprehensive dental treatment to soldiers on the frontlines.
There was a great increase in demand for dental professionals at this time and in 1945 when staffing was low, opportunities for female dental volunteers emerged.
Following the Second World War, the Canadian Dental Corps received royal recognition from King George VI and were granted the title Royal Canadian Dental Corps.
The Late 20th Century
After 1950, the Canadian military dental reputation did not sway. Canadian dentists were sent to assist in the Korean War, The Suez Crisis, and throughout various peacekeeping missions into the late 20th century.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Canadian dentistry, visit the CDA website.