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					AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING --- Dental Hygiene in Arizona

The year was 1947. Arizona had just begun licensing dental hygienists. As we research
our history, we realize how important it is for us to know where we’ve been, because if
we eradicate the past we diminish the meaning of the present and the future.

I hope all hygienists have read “The Origin and History of the Dental Hygienist
Movement” which is in Dr. Alfred C. Fones’ book MOUTH HYGIENE. I enjoy re-
reading it. It makes me feel grateful for those innovative pioneers in the New England
area. Around 1913 they set the course which has led to present day preventive care and
professional development -- a process which will continue on and on.

Likewise, after learning how dental hygiene got its start in Arizona I am filled with
gratitude and admiration for the people who helped pave the way in this state. I consider
being an Arizona hygienist a real pleasure. It’s been one of my blessings since 1957.

In the early years, there was no appropriate place for the Arizona State Board of Dental
Examiners to give exams. In 1947 they were using Glendale High School. Soon after
that, they chose the State Prison in Florence, AZ. This was partly because the prisoners
were in such need of dental care. The Board members created “dental units” from
straight wooden chairs with attached head rests. There were portable hand pieces which
could be plugged into electrical outlets. There were men from Tri-State Dental Supply
and Crabtree Dental Supply on hand to help applicants get ready for their patients. Each
hygienist had two squeeze-bulb syringes. One for compressed air and one for water
which was in a glass. There was a large tin can beside each chair to serve as a cuspidor.

The dentists who were serving on the State Board in the early years of dental hygiene in
Arizona were Drs. Bennett, Hamblin, Hicks, Glennie, Trueblood, Pecharich, Pinkerton
and Spitalny. Incidentally, Dr. Spitalny and another Phoenix dentist, Dr.Christianson, at
about that time, started the Children’s Dental Health Clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital,
where many of us continue to volunteer.

I would like to present a brief biographical sketch of two of our very earliest pioneer
hygienists. They are Helen McCall and Ruth Bugbee, both licensed by the Arizona
Board in that not-to-be-forgotten first year, 1947.

Helen, the lovely wife of Dr. T. E. McCall is listed on the State Board records as
licensee Number One. When she, formerly Helen Adams, finished high school in
Minnesota, she decided she did not was to be a teacher, secretary or nurse. So, she wrote
to the University of Minnesota and asked what else she might consider. That is how she
first learned of dental hygiene as a profession. Two years later, Helen graduated from
the University of Minnesota’s School of Dental Hygiene, class of 1935.

In those days, dental hygiene students were taught to polish teeth with a “porte-polisher”,
a tool with a metal handle which held a small slightly curved orangewood stick which
was dipped into a mixture of fine pumice and water. After Helen was licensed by the
Minnesota Board, she was given one lesson, and only one lesson in how to polish teeth
using the dental engine. In the office where this young hygienist was first employed, the
fee for a dental prophylaxis was two dollars and fifty cents and Helen received a salary of
fifteen dollars a week.

During World War II Helen worked in an Army hospital as a civilian. Hygienists in
those years had a great sense of pride in the white starched, perfectly ironed uniform,
white hosiery, well-polished white shoes and especially the white cap with the purple
ribbon. I might add that no one ever sat down to treat a patient. I’m so glad that has

In 1946 Helen traveled to Arizona to visit friends. She decided she would like to live
here. She talked with Dr. John Austin who was an advocate for getting our profession
launched in this state. The following year she returned because the law had been passed
making it possible for dental hygienists to be licensed in Arizona.

Soon Helen was practicing in Dr. Austin’s office in the Professional Building at Central
Avenue and Monroe in Phoenix, where most of the local dentists and physicians were
located. Another dentist in that building was the young Dr. Thomas E. McCall.
Romance blossomed. The delightful couple, Helen and Thomas were married the next

In 1949 Dr. McCall got the adventuresome idea of buying a bit of land “way out in
the country” on which to build a dental office, later to be known as 115 East Camelback
Road. The only major building out that far was St. Francis Xavier Church with the
accompanying Brophy Prep School. The patients were “just in a tizzy” about the
distance they would have to travel. Incidentally, that’s the year in which Arizona’s
“Man of the Year” was Barry Goldwater.

Well, the town grew and so did the McCall family. The McCalls became parents of four
children who became a physician, a lawyer and two teachers. One of their daughters-in-
law, Jeanne McCall, is a dental hygienist.

Meanwhile in Tucson, there was the innovative and charming Arizona pioneer hygienist,
Ruth S. Bugbee, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Hygiene,
class of 1922. She and her physician husband had moved here for Dr. Bugbee’s health.
During those earliest years Ruth established a dental health program in the Tucson
schools. It became a model for many school districts across the country. She spent
twenty five years as Senior Dental Hygienist in the Tucson public schools. Of course, in
the very early years, she was the entire department. During that time she initiated the
slogan, “If you can’t brush after eating, swish and swallow.” Later she had the pleasure
of seeing that slogan adopted by the ADA. In later years, Ruth Bugbee and Patricia
Poore co-authored the book, TEETH FOR LIFE, a dental health manual to be used by
teachers of grades one through six. The book continued to be used extensively.
In 1969 Ruth gave a paper in Rome at the First International Symposium on Dental
Health. There have been articles written about her and articles written by her published
for and wide. She was president of ASDHA in 1957 and again in 1963. She was Trustee
for District XI of ADHA from 1965 to 1967.

Ruth was so greatly admired and appreciated by the dentists in the Tucson area that she
was elected Honorary Member of the Southern Arizona Dental Society, the first
hygienist in the State to be so honored.

Another interesting note about Ruth is that she is the mother-in-law of the former
astronaut, Col. Frank Borman. When the Colonel returned from piloting Gemeni7 in
1965, Ruth asked him if she might have the toothbrush he had carried so she could show
it to her students, Well! Everyone wanted to touch it. So she framed the toothbrush and
put it under glass to preserve it.

ASDHA’s first logo was designed by Ruth’s son, Frank, industrial engineer in
Philadelphia. He incorporated the shining sun over the Saguaro cactus to symbolize the
state of Arizona. The three words, SERVICE, DEDICATION AND EDUCATION
epitomized the purpose of our professional organization. Of course, the ideas which
went into the creation of the logo were conceived by Ruth, then designed by her artist
son. The keystone shape of the logo bore a significant message. It’s interesting to note
that the definition of a keystone is “ the central, topmost stone of an arch, popularly
thought of as especially supporting and holding the others in place.” Perhaps that means
that ASDHA has a responsible position for nurturing and helping the components.

Ruth retired and returned to Pennsylvania. Her influence on dental health certainly lives
on. Her years of dedicated service reflect one of my favorite quotations: “Our deeds are
like pebbles cast into the pool of time. Though they themselves may disappear, their
ripples extend to eternity.”

ASDHA was born in 1953. This was largely due to the efforts of Mary Whayne Habeich,
Novella Hancock, Barbara Kolinovsky, Elisabeth McInnes, Marilyn Ronstadt, Marcia
Brandt, Betty Reeves, Ruth Bugbee and her daughter Susan Borman. Mary and Novella
were the Phoenix hygienists who were eager to get the State Association started. They
made repeated trips to meet with the Tucson hygienists who had the same hopes. Soon
this small group of determined hygienists proudly became a constituent of ADHA.

The first president was Mary Whayne Habeich, followed by Barbara Kolinovsky,
Lorraine Carlson, Ethel Retzer, Ruth Bugbee and Carol Theilke Werkmeister. Other
licensees of those first ten years were Ann Woodall, Mary Moss, Beverly Deathridge
Norma DeMarco, Dorothy McClelland, Ruth Rosenberg, Suzanne Barrett, Jayne Hamlin,
Joyce Jones, Beth Hill, Mary Ann Shipley, Margaret Biesemeyer, Mary Ann Green,
Mary DeBel, Patricia Fisher, Adelyn Posner, Marilyn McMillan, and Phyllis Baker.

In doing this research, the eldest dental hygienist I was privileged to talk with was the
delightful eighty-three-year-old Alice Mulligan who came to Arizona in 1953 and now
lives in Phoenix. She is a dynamic lady who became a hygienist in Minnesota in 1925.
She is the mother of ten children, one of whom is the popular Phoenix orthodontist, Dr.
Tom Mulligan.

I hope you have enjoyed learning these bits of early history as much as I have enjoyed
researching them for you. In looking through boxes and boxes of papers I found an old
ASDHA newsletter called IN YOUR HANDS in which Joan Sallomi had quoted, “A
measure of what is grown can only equal what is sown.”

So, from all of us who were not here to help launch our profession in Arizona, to all of
you diligent workers who were, THANK YOU, PIONEERS, FOR ALL OF YOUR

Betsy R. Davis, RDH
ASDHA Historian, 1985-86