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Sindecuse Museum

Women Dentists: Changing the Face of Dentistry

Women currently make up nearly half of all dental students and 25% of practicing dentists. Before the 1970s, fewer than 3.3% of American dentists were women. Independent-minded women struggled to obtain degrees, establish practices, and be respected as professionals.

Jessie Castle La Moreaux with patient


Jessie Castle La Moreaux, DDS treats a patient in her office. Photo courtesy of Rockwall County Historical Foundation.


Marie Hyman, DDS in her office with a patient. Photo courtesy of National Archives (photo number 165-WW-245B-6).


Jeannine Nordeen, DDS and an assistant with a patient. Photo courtesy of National Archives (photo number 111-SC-680025).


Bonita Neighbors, DDS consults with patient Nelly Sanders. Photo courtesy of University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

Featured Profiles

Here are four women who changed the face of the profession. Click on each link to learn more about these impressive dentists.

Clara Walworth MacNaughton

Clara W. MacNaughton



Vida Annette Latham (1866-1958)

Vida Annette Latham



Leonie von Zesch (1882-1944)

Leonie von Zesch



Jeanne C. Sinkford (1933-)

Jeanne C. Sinkford



I thought the best part was the individual displays of the very accomplished women and information about their different areas of expertise.

U-M Gradutate Student Visitor, April 2013

Every individual has their own talents and the exhibit does a nice job showing how they created a change for the greater good of the profession and society.

U-M Graduate Student Visitor, April 2014

Learn More

Why Women Choose Dentistry

Learn more about women who chose this rewarding occupation, including some who followed their family members into a dental career, and see how the demographics of the profession and training programs have changed over time:

Are Women Fit for Dentistry?

Early on, female dentists and their supporters clashed with detractors who believed women were not suited for the profession. Read about some of these pioneering women, their supportive mentors, and the arguments they faced:

Women's Dental Organizations

Even after earning their degrees, women still struggled to be accepted by other dentists and professional organizations. Many women joined together to form their own organizations for professional development and support:

Women Dentists in the Military

During the first half of the 20th Century, the U.S. Armed Forces allowed women to serve as nurses, but did not accept women from other medical professions. Ultimately women were allowed to serve their country as dentists:

Minority Women Dentists

Learn about dedicated women who confronted racist and sexist prejudices in order to completed dental education programs, establish flourishing practices, and serve as inspiration for others who followed in their footsteps:

Choosing a Specialty

As the dental profession evolved and educational programs began offering advanced dentistry degrees, a wide range of specialties emerged. The women in this section helped develop specialized techniques, technologies and areas of study:



Click here to view an interactive timeline about the history of women dentists.


To view current exhibits, visit the museum in the Kellogg Building on the University of Michigan campus. Click here for directions to the museum.


Exhibition Credits:

Special thanks to:
James S. Hayward, DDS; Sharon L. Brooks, DDS; Debbie Lawhon, Curator, Rockwall County Historical Foundation; Jeanne McGuire and F. Patrick McGuire, DDS; Gillian Payne; Dr. Scott Swank, Curator, National Museum of Dentistry; Marilyn Woolfolk, DDS.

Museum Staff:
Kathy Daniels, Collections Coordinator.
Shannon O’Dell, Curator & Director.
Research: Krystal Thomas; Molly McGuire; Lindsay Smith.

Contracted Services:
Exhibition Design and installation: Hutchinson Studios, LLC.
Graphic Design: Tooth & Rag, LLC.
Exhibit Research and Script: Brynn Raupagh.

Additional Resources

To learn more about the topics and women dentists featured here, download the list of research resources used in the creation of this exhibit. Compiled by Brynn Raupagh.

PDF icon Women Dentists Exhibit Research Resources.pdf
Women Dentists Exhibit Research Resources