ODA in Action

Dr. Caroline Louise Josephine Wells - 1893

ODA’s First Female Dentist (1893)

By the end of the 19th-century, Barnabas Day had succeeded in sparking change in Ontario with the establishment of a professional dental association, a permanent dental college and a dental Code of Ethics. Dentistry had become a respectable profession to aspire to.

It was amid this atmosphere of change that Dr. Caroline Louise Josephine Wells broke Ontario’s dentistry gender barrier in 1893. Wells became the first female member of the Ontario Dental Society and the first female graduate of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons (RCDS).

Determined to overcome the tremendous social and economic pressures facing her, Wells sent her three children to live with relatives while she completed her schooling. Her entry into the profession opened the way for other women in Ontario, signalling the end of male exclusivity in Ontario’s organized dentistry. For the next 36 years, Dr. Wells practised in Toronto, providing groundbreaking dental care to patients in several of Ontario’s mental hospitals.

Photo: Courtesy of the Archives of the Ontario Dental Association