Dr. Horace Hayden: “Father of the Dental Profession”

Dr. Horace Henry Hayden (1769-1844), a native of Windsor, Connecticut, is regarded as a pioneer in the field of dentistry and a leader in the 19th century movement to establish a formal system of dental education.  During his lifetime, dentistry evolved from the crude techniques of the barber-surgeon into a scientifically based, modern profession.  Hayden played a prominent role in the formation of a dental college, a professional society of dental surgeons, and a journal of dental science.

Hayden was the son of Thomas and Abigail (Parsons) Hayden and a direct descendant of William Hayden, a founder of Windsor.  Young Horace helped his mother take care of the family farm while his father was away serving in the Revolutionary War, and she instructed him in his early schooling.  As a teenager he spent several years travelling at sea and then returned home to learn his father’s building trades. In 1795 he consulted with Dr. John Greenwood, George Washington’s personal dentist in New York City, and was so impressed with Greenwood’s skills and methods that he began the study of dentistry himself.

By 1802 Hayden had established a successful dental practice in Baltimore.  He continued to study medical anatomy and surgery as well as teach classes in dentistry.  Believing dentists should receive formal, systematic medical education, Hayden spent decades advocating for the establishment of a school for dental instruction.  In 1840 he co-founded the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery with Dr. Chapin Harris and served as its first president and its first professor of dental surgery.  The college was the first institution to award the D.D. S. degree and is now part of the University of Maryland.