NCDHA History


The year was 1948 and the city was Asheville, North Carolina. Five dental hygienists met to act on a vision they shared to start an organization of North Carolina Dental Hygienists. Carolyn Smart Keith was asked to preside over the meeting. She had been an active member of the New York State Dental Hygienists’ Association and she brought to North Carolina a working knowledge of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Carolyn, along with four other dental hygienists present at this meeting, felt that it was important for the grassroots dental hygienists to have a voice through a state professional association. They wanted North Carolina to have a representative organization which would be a constituent of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. The North Carolina Dental Society president appointed an advisory committee to work closely with NCDHA during the organizational years. All NCDHA activities were approved by the committee.

The original NCDHA Constitution and Bylaws were composed by Carolyn Smart Keith, Winifred Brewer Burns and Nancy Horton. This document was patterned very closely after the ADHA Constitution and Bylaws.

In 1949 the Constitution and Bylaws were adopted at a meeting held in conjunction with the North Carolina Dental Society Annual Meeting in Pinehurst, North Carolina. This started a tradition of NCDHA meeting annually the same time as NCDS.

The five charter members of NCDHA are Carolyn Smart Keith, Winifred Brewer Burns, Maxine Bowman, Mary Louise Tuttle and Nancy Horton Pappas. The vision was born and dental hygiene was on the move.

The next decade would see the dental hygienist move from public school settings and penal institutions into private practice. This was not an easy transition. NCDHA encouraged dental hygienists to educate the dentists and the public about the preventive advantages of their therapy and the distinct role and responsibilities of dental hygienists.

Dental hygiene education in North Carolina began in 1953 when the first students were accepted into the curriculum for dental hygiene at UNC. The first class, consisting of 11 members graduated in 1955. Then in 1965 the first dental hygiene school in the community college system opened.

We have come a long way.