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Timeline of Dental Hygiene History in Wyoming
1921 Legislation passed allowing dental hygienists to practice.
1922 Dental Hygiene license #1 issued to Edna Stowe Thomas of Casper
1957 Wyoming Dental Hygienists’ Association chartered in September
1969 Sheridan College Dental Hygiene Program started at Sheridan College
1971 First class of 12 dental hygienists graduated from Sheridan College
1975 First year WDHA appointed an Historian & started keeping a scrapbook
1979 First dental hygienist appointed to the Board of Dental Examiners by the Governor. Dee Davis could vote on all issues except discipline for dentists.
1980 First Component of the constituent was organized in Sheridan
1982 The University of Wyoming and Sheridan College entered into a cooperative agreement allowing for the first Bachelor of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene to be awarded.
1991 Local anesthesia became legal as an expanded function for dental hygienists.
1992 Laramie County Community College started the second dental hygiene program in the state.
2008 Administering and monitoring nitrous oxide/oxygen became legal as an expanded function.
2013 Use of lasers by dental hygienists became legal as an expanded function.
As Remembered by Edna Stowe Thomas
The first Wyoming dental hygiene license was issued in September 1922 to Edna Stowe Thomas of Casper, Wyoming. A graduate of dental hygiene from the Colorado College of Dental Surgery, she also held Colorado dental hygiene license #28, issued in 1920.
The legislation permitting Wyoming dental hygiene license #1 was procured by Mrs. Thomas at the 1921 Wyoming State Legislature through Senate Bill #13 and was signed by Governor Robert Carey.
These are simple statements, but behind them are many interesting and dramatic events and happenings affecting the lives of many people. The retelling of this story to my fellow dental hygienists is a work of love, for I owe so much to my profession of dental hygiene, not only in a financial way, although this angle has given support to my mother and two children, (even college educations for the latter) but also this work has added to all phases of my life. It has brought lifelong friends and respect for the usefulness of my hands. I owe a great deal to these fifty-five years of service to the public.
~Edna Stowe Thomas’s Story~
The story of my part in the “dental hygiene movement” goes something like this. . . In June 1920, my husband, Claude W. Thomas graduated from Colorado College of Dental Surgery at Denver, Colorado. He practiced in Colorado for four years. He and his family came to Casper, Wyoming in September 1914.
In 1918, the influenza became prevalent everywhere and took its toll in Casper. It came to him. He died very suddenly, early in January 1919. I was left with a daughter, Dell, eight years old, and a baby son, Claude, three months old. My mother immediately came into my home and took over the house-making. Within two weeks I went to work in my husband’s former dental office.
World War I was just over, and young dentists formerly in a government dental corps were hunting for new locations to practice. Through my attorney, R.H. Nicholas, I was fortunate enough to acquire the services of such a one – Dr. C. H. Bailey. We joined forces, he took over the two chair practice and I owned all the equipment and performed as his assistant. We worked on a percentage basis. Dr. Bailey stayed with me for three years.
Later, Dr. C. H. Carpenter bought one of my dental units and I worked with him as a dental hygienist. We moved to the O & S Building in 1923, where I stayed until retiring in April 1971. And now, the story of acquiring legislation permitting dental hygienists to practice in Wyoming is quite interesting.
This Dr. Bailey who came to operate the office had been stationed in Connecticut. It so happens that Connecticut is the state in which dental hygiene originated. He was much in favor of this new idea, the education of young women to clean teeth under the supervision of dentists. In Connecticut, young women completing a year long course in a dental college, and passing an examination from the State Board of Dental Examiners, became dental hygienists. You wonder at the requirement of only a one-year course, but please remember, the dentists of that era only had a three-year college requirement.
As this period of time, there were only eight states that had legislation recognizing dental hygiene licensure, and Colorado was one of them. Dr. Bailey was acquainted with a course of study for dental hygienists in Denver. He urged and insisted that I investigate and consider taking this course. So, in 1920 I went to Denver to attend the Colorado College of Dental Surgery, the same one which my husband attended. I worked part-time in the college office.
Every other weekend, I traveled by train to Casper to do our book work, and necessary office cleaning. On Sundays, I visited my family, returning to Denver on Sunday nights. I graduated in December 1920, and took the Colorado State Dental Board Examination, receiving the Colorado Dental Hygiene License #28. However, this didn’t solve my problem. There was no legislation authorizing the practice of dental hygienists in Wyoming. The Colorado license was not acceptable to the Wyoming Board of Dental Examiners.
There was no other way, but to go immediately to Cheyenne and work for legislation – which I did in January 1921. It all happened this way . . . Judge A. C. Campbell of Cheyenne was asked to prepare the wording of the bill. It was called Senate Bill #13. It was introduced first in the Senate by Senator William Johnson. I spent almost seven weeks in Cheyenne – lobbying and talking to each one of the legislators, missing not a one.
This new work, or new phase of dentistry was little known, it belonged in the East. It took a bit of explaining. At this time, Wyoming was cattle country, not even oil interests had been developed as yet. I remember one of the legislators asking me quite seriously, “Now, just what kind of animal is “a dental hygienist”? Senate Bill #13 passed the Senate without much trouble or ado. Then it was sent to the House of Representatives. There it was introduced by Captain Frisby of Casper. There it began to have trouble. It had competition, as another bill was introduced, worded very similarly, but asking for a two-year college course of study for licensure. There was no such course offered, and the legislators became very confused. Just here, I want to insert a word or two. I have always understood why the dentists opposed this new project. Connecticut was a long way off. Conditions in Wyoming were so very different. There were only three or four dentists in Casper. They could see no need or use for such legislation. I understood even then, their opposition. It was to be expected. Finally the Bill landed in a “House Committee” where so many bills die. There seemed little hope for it. Days passed, and no word from it. I finally remembered some very fine friends in Casper that might help. In desperation, I would ask for help from them. I telephoned U.S. Senator Patrick Sullivan, who was in Washington DC at this time. I explained my reason for being in Cheyenne and what I had been doing as a lobbyist. He was full of interest and concern. He suggested several plans to try and gave me hope that all would be well very soon. The next morning as usual, I was in the balcony of the House of Representatives, waiting and listening. There was no report. Noon came, and still no report, but about 3:30 p.m. the gavel sounded, and all became quiet, as the clerk announced that Senate Bill #13 was out of committee waiting to be read and discussed. I heard it with my own ears, but I just couldn’t believe it.
There was an hour or so of discussion. Then the vote was taken. It was favorable. It was all over. As I came down those wide, wide steps of the State Capitol building, you know, or course what I was doing; the tears were flowing, tears of joy of course.
Down at the foot of the stairway stood Governor Carey, awaiting me. He congratulated me and asked me to step in to his office. We visited a bit, finally he said, “I have sent for your piece of legislation, Senate Bill #13. I’ll sign it for you, and it will then become a law of the State of Wyoming. Please then, will you take the evening train for Casper to be with your family and office? ” Which he did and I did.-Edna Stowe Thomas 1887-1981
*Edna Stowe Thomas’ dental hygiene license is housed in the Sheridan College Dental Hygiene Program. A copy was made to send to ADHA for the 100th Anniversary Celebration. Issue date September 1922.
History of Dental Hygiene in Wyoming
Our Plan 2019
Goal #1: Direct Billing Insurances
The goal is for RDH’s to receive direct reimbursement from insurance companies after billing directly.
Goal #2: Essential Primary Care Providers
Wyoming RDH’s are working to become recognized as essential primary care providers in the state of Wyoming.
Goal #3: Increase Membership
The WyDHA would like to increase its members by 5% annually.
Goal #4: Professional Development
Providing professional development by way of encouraging conference attendance and scientific studies in the field.
Goal #4: Student Support
Support the dental hygiene programs within the state of Wyoming. These programs include Sheridan College and LCCC.