U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
Skip Navigation, go to content







AMEDD MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS External Link, Opens in New Window






Organization of the Dental Corps

AMEDD Corps History > U.S. Army Dental Corps > Walter D. Vail and the History of the U.S. Army Dental Corps


VOLUME 5, NO. 1 (JANUARY 1934)



(Continued from page 172, Volume IV.)

The records quoted in the foregoing pages outline the organization of the Dental Corps under the provisions of the Act of February 2, 1901. The board of examining and supervising dental surgeons completed its work July 31, 1901; members of the board were ordered to duty in the field and the quota of thirty dental surgeons was filled by the appointment of Dr. Geo. H. Casaday, February 3, 1902, one year after approval of the Act.

It seems pertinent at this point to review briefly the records pertaining to dentists and the military services prior to the organization of the Dental Corps, U.S. Army.

It will be remembered that the Honorable Mr. Otey, M.C., (Va.) made the statement in connection with his recommendation for the appointment of Dr. Morgan, that Dr. Morgan had suggested the bill and that the dentists who had been asleep took it up and did good work to accomplish the results. Mr. Otey apparently was not well informed concerning efforts the dental profession had made to have dentists appointed in the Army and Navy. There are many references in dental literature pertaining to this subject. The following is taken from an editorial column of the American Journal Dental Science, Vol. IX, No. 3 (July 1859): “At the last meeting of the American Dental Convention, a committee was appointed to memorialize Congress on the necessity of appointing dentists for the service of the Army and Navy. The resolutions authorizing the appointment of this committee were offered by Dr. McKillops.1 We are glad that this subject has attracted the attention of the Convention, although to our certain knowledge the importance of it has been advocated by Dr. Maynard for these fifteen years past, at Washington City, and had so far impressed Mr. Fillmore2 in its favor that he brought it before the Cabinet in Council * * *”.

l It is believed that Dr. McKillops referred to was Dr. H. J. McKellops of St Louis:(See page 291, Trans. N.D.A., Southern Branch, for evidence supporting this belief.).

2 Mr. Filmore was President of the United States 1850-53.


A record concerning early military dentistry in American armies appears in an article entitled “Dental Surgery as applied in the Armies of the late Confederate States” written by W. Leigh Burton and published in the American Journal of Dental Science, Vol. I, No. 3, 3rd series—August 1867. The following extracts are taken therefrom:

* * * *

“During the progress of the late unhappy war, it soon became apparent that the soldiers of the Confederate armies stood sadly in need of the services of dentists. Most of them being from extreme sections of the country, without means, being cut off from all communications with their homes, and their pay being totally inadequate to meet the most ordinary and pressing wants, it was out of the question for them to attempt to pay for dental operations. Particularly when it is remembered the price of one gold filling in the depreciated currency of the Confederacy, was more than six months pay of a private.

* * * *

“From the above examples of prevailing prices it is very clear that a confederate soldier getting eighteen dollars per month could not afford to pay for dental operations, and the question arose, what was to be done for the amelioration of his condition? This question was solved by the rigid conscription laws passed by Congress; dentists were conscripted, and the Surgeon General of the late Confederate States, with a forethought and humanity characteristic of the man, determined at once to make their valuable services available to the armies.

* * * *

“Surgeon General Moore immediately made application to the Bureau of Conscription for the detail of dentists for duty in the hospitals, and after some months of experiment, he caused to be issued the following order.



                                                                        Office of The Medical Director

                                                                                    C. S. Hospitals in Virginia,

                                                                                                Richmond, Va., Nov. 4, 1864.


  No. 15         )

I. As far as practicable in future, the operations of dentistry required in General Hospitals in Virginia, will be performed by officers, soldiers or conscripts assigned to those duties, who are dentists by profession.

II. Examinations will be made, at such times as may be fixed by the surgeon in charge, of each officer and soldier admitted into hospitals, and the necessary operation performed with the concurrence of the attending Medical officer.

III. Dentists are expected to be provided with their own instruments, but the necessary materials and files will be purchased with the hospital funds, and requisition made for other instruments thought necessary.

IV. Dentists will have the rank, pay and perquisites which their position in the army entitles them, and in addition, such extra duty pay for extra-ordinary skill and industry, as the Surgeon General will allow, in accordance with general order; No: 66, A. & IG., office current series.

V. Monthly reports of Dental operations and accompanying registers in accordance with forms furnished, will be forwarded through the Surgeon in charge and through this office, to the Surgeon General by the 5th of the month succeeding.

                                                            (Signed)          WM. A. CARRINGTON,

                                                                        Medical Director of Gen. Hospitals in Virginia.

“Besides a detailed monthly report of each operation performed, in which the date, patient’s name, rank, regiment, company, and the operations, were required to be given, a summary was attached in which they were consolidated after the following order : Number of patients operated on—Teeth extracted—Fillings inserted—Teeth cleaned of tartar—Fractures adjusted —Other operations—Total number of operations performed.”

* * * *

There are numerous other references in dental literature pertaining to the necessity for dental surgeons in the Army and Navy and resolutions passed by dental societies favoring the appointment of dentists in the military services many years prior to the Act of February 2, 1901. These need not be quoted further.


In connection with the development of legislation for dentistry in the services, the reader is referred to the report of the Committee on Army and Navy Dental Legislation, National Dental Association, made at the meeting in Milwaukee (1901) from which the following is extracted:

“To the Officers and Members of The National Dental Association: In this the third annual report of your Committee on Legislation relating to Dental Surgeon service for the Army and Navy, we respectfully report our work concluded for the present so far as appertains to the army, by the act of Congress approved February 2, 1901, which provides for the employment of thirty Army Dental Surgeons ‘under the terms and conditions applicable to Army Contract Surgeons.’ ”

* * * *

“Your Committee has had the most hearty, unselfish and commendable cooperation in this work of a large proportion of those designated as a committee at large to act in accord with the present one, and other members of the profession have also faithfully cooperated, and it has been a serious question with your Committee as to how credit might be given where it is due with even-handed justice. We refer this question to you. We ask, however, that a special vote of thanks be tendered the Hon. E. W. Pettus of Alabama, who modestly and quietly and from a sense of duty conducted the bill through the Senate; to the Hon. P. J. Otey, who accepted the bill and plan of the secretary of your Committee, although the bill differed materially from one he had offered in May, 1898, and faithfully, persistently and successfully conducted the difficult work in the House; to Dr. W. O. Owen, a Major and Surgeon of the U.S. Army, who has been an advocate of commissioned dental surgeons for years, and who took with him to the Philippine Islands Dr. W. H. Ware and Dr. Gibbons, to render dental service to the military at that time proceeding from Camp Merritt; and to Dr. Louis Ottofy of Manila, who took up the cause against his private interests and at our request secured the endorsements of eight-five surgeons and several hundred line officers then in the Philippine Islands, which were forwarded for the use of your Committee with the consent of the Military-Governor, General MacArthur.” * * * (Trans. N.D.A., 1901, page 217).


Returning to the record of organization of the Dental Corps, the distribution of dental surgeons on December 31, 1901 was as follows:

United States 






Porto Rico      


Dr. Morgan’s contract was annulled February 3, 1902, Dr. John H. Hess was appointed member of the board of examining and supervising dental surgeons, vice Dr. Morgan; Dr. John D. Millikin was appointed March 3, 1902, vice Dr. Hess. (Record Book Contract Dental Surgeons, S.G.O.)

Dr. Chas. A. Petre, who had been appointed at Aparri, P.I., on July 25, 1901, died at that place February 12, 1902. Dr. Julien R. Bernheim was appointed April 9, 1902, to fill the vacancy (Record Book Contract Dental Surgeons, S.G.O.).

The first two contract dental surgeons appointed as a result of their examination by the examining and supervising board were Drs. Sibert D. Boak and Clarence E. Lauderdale. A record of their service to June 30, 1902, is shown below as it is typical of the itinerant status of contract dental surgeons of that time.

S. Davis Boak:


April 15, 01

entered into contract at Martinsburg, W. Va., with the Surgeon General, U.S.A., for service as a contract dental surgeon, U.S. Army, compensation $150 per month, to continue at least three years. Examined at Washington, D.C., qualified.

April 15, 01,

from Martinsburg, W. Va., to San Francisco, Cal., for Philippine service (87, 13, A.G.O.).

Apr. 15-24, 01,

awaiting orders and en route to San Francisco; 25-30, awaiting transportation.

May 22, 01,

to Philippines on first available transport (118, par. .6, Dept. Cal.). May 1-31, awaiting transportation. June 1-30, on “Sheridan,” en route. July 1, same; 2-15, awaiting orders (173, par. 11, Div. Phil., and 189, par. 3, Dept. N. Luzon) and



en route to San Fernando, Pampanga; 16-31, duty at San Fernando. Aug. 1-31, same duty.

Sept. 1-30, 01,

same duty. Oct. 1-31, same duty. Nov. 1-30, same duty. Dec. 1-31, same duty.

Oct. 24, 01,

leave for one day (274, par. 7, Dept. N. Luzon). Jan. 1-18 duty at San Fernando; 19-20, en route (7, pars. 2, 5, 2d Sep. Brig.); 21-31, duty at San Felipe, Zambales. Feb. 1-26, same duty; 27-28, duty at Iba, Zambales. March 1-31, same duty. April 1-4, same duty; 5-30, duty at Tarlac, Tarlac. May 1-31, same duty. June 1-30, same duty (9-10, leave).

Clarence E. Lauderdale:

April 15, 01,   

entered into contract at Naples, N.Y., with the Surgeon General, U.S. Army, for service as a contract dental surgeon, U.S. Army, compensation $150 per month, to continue at least three years. Examined at Washington, D.C.; qualified.

April 15, 01,

from Naples, N.Y., to San Francisco, Cal., for Philippine service (87, par. 13, A.G.O.).

April 15-22 01,

awaiting orders and enroute to San Francisco, Cal.; 23-30, awaiting transportation.

May 22, 01,

to Philippines on first available transport (118, par. 6, Dept. Cal.). May 1-31, awaiting transportation. June 1-30, on “Sheridan,” en route. July 1, same; 2- awaiting orders (17, par. 5, Div. Phil.) and on sick report at Manila. Aug. 1-4, sick; 5-17, awaiting orders and transportation (210, par. 3, Div. Phil.) ; 18-19, en route to Iloilo ; 20-31, duty at Iloilo (210, par. 1, Dept. Visayas). Sept. 1-30, same duty. Oct. 1-31, same.

Nov. 1-30, 01,

same duty. Dec. 1-17, same duty; 8-31, temp. duty at Bacolod, Valladolid and Binalbogan.

Nov. 30, 01,

proceed to Bacolod, Negros, Dec. 1, and remain one month (303, par. 1, Dept. Visayas).

Jan. 1, 02,

on return to Iloilo, to Danao, Negros, for temp. duty (1, 5th Sep. Brig.).


Jan. 6, 02,

visit stations on Panay and Negros, in order designated by brig, corn. (G. O. 3, par. 1, S. Phil.).

Jan. 1-11, 02,

duty at Bacolod; 12-20, duty at Iloilo; 30-31, en route. Feb. 1-24, duty at Danaos, Negros; 25-28, duty at Iloilo. March 1-31, same duty. April 1-14, same, 15-30, en route and at Dumaguete, Negros, for temp. duty (60, 5th Sept. Brig.).

May 10-14,

duty at Iloilo; 15-31, duty at San Joaquin, Panay (90, 5th Sep. Brig. June 1-5, same; 6-12, at Iloilo; 13-14, en route; 15-30, duty at Puerta Princesa. (Record Book, Cont. Dent. Sur. 560).

The accomplishments of the Dental Corps during its first year of organization are very well outlined in the Surgeon General’s report to the Secretary of War for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1902, as is shown in the following extracts from that report:

“The energies and resources of the Dental Corps have been taxed to their fullest extent in caring for those officers and enlisted men who have sought their services for the relief of suffering, and this has made it necessary in some instances for the dental surgeons to operate daily from 8 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. The great amount of service that has been rendered by the dental surgeons could not have been accomplished but for these long hours of work and the assistance accorded them through the extra details of members of the Hospital Corps.

“The whole number of patients, regulars and volunteers, that have been treated during the period covered by the reports of dental surgeons in this office are 9,148.




United States



Philippine Islands



Cuba and Porto Rico







“The reports from the Philippine Islands were still incomplete when this resume was prepared, some stations being two and three months behind, and as a consequence it does not show the actual amount of service rendered by the dental surgeons in the Philippine Division.

“The services of the dental corps, however, made a highly creditable showing when the facts are taken into consideration that the corps was not fully organized at the close of the year ; that much delay was experienced in transporting them to their first stations and equipping them for service. The reports in this office cover the period from June 1 to December 31, 1901, but a reference to the table of distribution of dental surgeons and date of arrival at first station will show that active work did not begin in the United States, Cuba, and Porto Rico until July and August, while in the Philippine Islands, although several dental surgeons reported for duty in Manila in June and July, active work was delayed until a still later period on account of the difficulties experienced in transporting supplies over so great a distance and the obstacles which always surround the launching of a new enterprise or a new line of service.

“The character of the service so far rendered by the dental surgeons has, by reason of the great number of patients who have applied for treatment, been largely of an emergency nature, and the constant effort has been made to so treat the cases as to return the men to duty with the least possible delay and loss to the service.

“The tabulations of diseases and injuries of the mouth and jaws, of the teeth and gums, and of operations and treatment which follow, show that a large part of the time and skill of the dental surgeons was expended in giving relief from the suffering caused by dental caries, pulpitis, percimentitis, alveolar abscess, pyorrhea alveolaris, and gingivitis. The comparatively large number of teeth extractions is due to the great prevalence of dental caries of a severe type among the enlisted men who are serving or have served in Cuba, Porto Rico, or the Philippines. Instructions were issued to the dental surgeons to conserve as far as possible all teeth that could NI placed in a healthy condition by appropriate treatment, so as to reduce the loss of teeth


to the minimum, and these instructions have been generally carried out.

“It seems to be an established fact dental caries take on more active symptoms among our troops after a few month's residence in a tropical climate, but whether this is due to neglect of a pro- per hygienic care of the teeth during active campaigning or to the depressing effect of a tropical climate upon assimilation and vital resistance in individuals going from a temperate zone or to the necessary changes in the character of the food, remains to be demonstrated. It would seem more than probable, however, that it is due to the effects of all these conditions combined.

“A reference to the statistical tables will also show that pyorrhea alveolaris and inflammatory and ulcerative conditions of the gums and oral mucous membrane are very prevalent among the officers and enlisted men who have served or are serving in the tropics. These conditions are more noticeable in those who have been in the Philippines for a considerable period and in those who have suffered from certain forms of illness. These conditions seem to be largely due in the former to the enervating and debilitating effects of the hot climate, etc., and in the latter to such wasting diseases as gastritis, diarrhea, dysentery, and the continued fevers.

“Total number of treatments and operations, medical, surgical, and mechanical:




United States



Philippine Islands



Cuba and Porto Rico






(The report continues with tables of service rendered to Regular Army forces under following titles: “Diseases and injuries of the teeth and gums,” “Diseases and injuries of the mouth and jaws,” “Operations upon the teeth and jaws,” “Restorations by fillings,” “Restorations by crowns and bridges,”


“Restorations by artificial dentures,” and “Mechanical appliances for fractured jaws.”

Services rendered for “Volunteers” were covered under tables headed as follows: “Diseases and injuries of the teeth and gums,” “Diseases and injuries of the mouth and jaws,” “Operations upon the teeth and jaws,” and “Restorations by fillings.”).

* * * *

“(Note: The only volunteers remaining in the service after June 30, 1901, were volunteer medical officers)”.

* * * *

“The following tables, compiled from 8,408 cases of dental caries treated by filling or extraction, shows the susceptibility of the individual teeth to this disease in the troops stationed in the United States, the Philippine Islands, Cuba and Porto Rico:

* * * *






Per cent.






















“The percentage of caries is considerably higher for the central and lateral incisors and cuspids, both upper and lower, than is usually given in published statistics, being in some instances more than double. In the bicuspids, upper and lower, the percentage agrees very closely with published statistics, while in the first molars, both upper and lower, it is about 4 per cent less. The latter variation may be accounted for from the fact that the first molars are very frequently lost from caries before the individual reaches the legal age for enlistment. In the second and third molars the variation in the percentage is not very different from published statistics. The comparatively low percentage of dental caries in the bicuspids and the second and third molars, may also be accounted for by the fact that it was not a bar to enlistment during the Spanish-American war if the applicant had only two opposing molars, one above and one below, upon opposite sides of the mouth. Many men were therefore enlisted who had already lost the bicuspids and the other molars.

“In view of these facts it would seem advisable to raise the requirement of the number of opposing molars that should be possessed by the recruit and that the general condition of all of the teeth should be taken into account before accepting him. Applicants who show signs of extensive dental caries should not be accepted for service, as such men are constantly being carried upon the company sick book on account in incapacity for


duty resulting from dental diseases or have to be discharged on account of their inability to properly masticate the army ration.

“The services of the Dental Corps have been highly appreciated by the officers and enlisted men of the Regular and Volunteer Armies and have proved very satisfactory to the Medical Department, because they have been able to relieve a great amount of acute suffering and to conserve a large number of teeth and restore them to a healthy condition, thus almost immediately returning to duty many cases that were previously carried for several days upon the company sick report. This has resulted in greatly reducing the loss of valuable time to the service, incident to diseases of the mouth, teeth, and jaws, and relieving and hastening the cure of such gastric and intestinal disorders as were due to defective mastication and infective and suppurative conditions of the teeth and oral cavity.

“The cost of maintaining the Dental Corps is small when compared with the relief from suffering obtained and the greater efficiency of the officers and men who have received the service of the dental surgeons. Good teeth are an essential factor in maintaining the general health of our troops, and consequently their efficiency, and on account of the increasing prevalence of dental caries and the abnormal condition growing out of the disease the dental surgeon has become a necessity to the Army. Early provision should therefore be made for the establishment of a permanent corps of dental surgeons attached to the Medical Department.”

* * * *

(To be continued.)