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A History: College of Dentistry

College of DentistryIn 1965, the Oklahoma State Legislature authorized the development of a dental school at the University of Oklahoma. The following year, a committee created by the Oklahoma Dental Association began working with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the Legislature and OU administrators to make preliminary plans and search for a dean.

In March of 1969, William E. Brown, D.D.S., a dental educator at the University of Michigan, was hired as dean, a position he held until 1987. Dr. Brown arrived in Oklahoma City in July and from his office in a former residence at 636 N.E. 14th St. began the formidable task of writing grants, hiring a faculty, planning a curriculum and designing interim and permanent facilities for the new college. Instrumental in establishing the basic sciences program for the college were College of Medicine Dean James L. Dennis, M.D., and his successor Robert M. Bird, M.D.

Under the direction of Sharon Barton, the bachelor's degree program in dental hygiene welcomed its first class of 16 students in 1971. The program's first home was in a former residence at the corner of 14th Street and Lindsay Avenue.

The 24 students of the first OU dentistry class began their studies in 1972 on the third floor of the Basic Sciences Education Building, with clinical facilities on the first floor of the Interim Building at the corner of Stonewall Avenue and 12th Street. Breaking with the long-established dental education practice of offering two years of basic science education and two of clinical training, Dean Brown developed a curriculum that would expose students to clinical dentistry from the first weeks of their first year.

Begun in 1973, the College of Dentistry Building was completed in 1976 at a cost of $10.3 million. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and funding from the Health and Education for a Richer Oklahoma (HERO) bond issue passed by the people of Oklahoma in 1968. The 112,000-square-foot facility included 180 general practice operatories for student use and additional operatories for oral diagnosis, radiography, oral surgery, pediatric dentistry, graduate programs, and residencies. The innovative structure is considered one of the nation's finest facilities for undergraduate, graduate and dental auxiliary education.

The primary mission of the college continues to be the education of highly competent dental professionals. A significant part of the educational program involves the clinical treatment of patients in student clinics, where a wide range of dental services is provided under the supervision of clinical faculty members. These faculty members not only train the next generation of general practice and specialized dentists, they also are actively involved in treating patients.

The college offers graduate programs in orthodontics and periodontics and residency programs in oral and maxillofacial surgery and general dentistry.