Centennial Reflections

C. Edmund Kells – Founding Fellow

A part of our centennial celebration, we will look at the profiles of our organization forebears and their contributions to the profession. It seems entirely appropriate to begin with Dr. C. Edmund “Eddie” Kells often regarded as the father of dental radiography.

There were many issues facing the dental profession in the 1920s- but key among the concerns was the widely promulgated focal theory of infection. Many influential physicians popularized the belief that the oral cavity represented a particularly significant nidus of infection and the teeth should be routinely removed to prevent oral sepsis and thereby attenuate some of the most significant systemic diseases of the time. The medical community favored extraction to any repair of the dentition. In short, full mouth extractions were essentially prescribed by the medical community until the theory was disproven and fell out of favor by the 1940s. Dr. Kells’ recommendation to the dental profession was that no dentist “will extract a tooth upon orders of a physician.” Against the staunch resistance of his medical colleagues, Dr. Kells held to his convictions and advanced his theories on conservative cavity preparation and necessity of ‘saving’ pulpless teeth. Dr. Kells was an inventor and he held numerous patents as he worked to develop the armamentarium necessary to perform increasingly complex dental procedures.

He was an early adopter of the routine use of radiographs in dental practice and he endeavored to perfect intraoral radiographic technique. His interest in the emerging field of radiology and his pioneering work would cost him dearly later in his life. The dangers of radiation were not entirely known to the those engaged in the study of this emerging technology. Dr. Kells would subsequently be diagnosed with epidermoid carcinoma of his left thumb. After more than thirty surgical interventions designed to control the malignancy of the affected limb, and now with the involvement of his right limb and the associated unrelenting chronic neuropathic pain – Dr. Kells ended his life without apparent regret. He did not lament his fate but rather spoke openly of the benefits to patients in the management of their disease. “That a few should suffer for the benefit of millions is a law of nature”.

Kells, Charles E., “Roentgen rays,” The Dental Cosmos 41 (1899): 1014—29.
Kells CE. The x-ray in dental practice: the crime of the age.
J Natl Dent Assoc 1920;7(3):241-272.

American College of Dentists Salutes Dr. John E. Regan and the Indiana Dental Association for Championing the Dr. Otto U. King Commemorative Marker

Dr. John E. Regan, a long-time Fellow of the College has been collaborating with the Huntington County Historical Society and Museum to place a Historical Marker in Huntington to honor one of the founding fathers of the American College of Dentists — Dr. Otto U. King. The American College of Dentists was founded by the leaders of dentistry in 1920, including the president, Dr. John V. Conzett, president-elect H. Edmund Friesell, and General Secretary of the the American Dental Association (then called the National Dental Association) Dr. Otto U. King, and president of the National Association of Dental Faculties (precursor of American Dental Education Association), Dr. Arthur D. Black III. Dr. O.U. King was instrumental in the establishment of the College and the drafting of the bylaws at the inaugural meeting at Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts on August 20, 1920.

Throughout his long and distinguished career, Dr. King would serve many roles in organized dentistry and at the state and national level. According to The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), Dr. King was its first editor, a post he held from 1913 until 1925. As Editor, he founded JADA in November 1913. He was also elected the First Executive Secretary, a post that was the forerunner to today’s executive director, in 1913. He also served with distinction as the IDA President in 1914-15 and he did all of this while maintaining a private dental practice in Huntington.

According to Dr. Regan, “Dr. King enhanced the prestige of the profession and every practicing dentist. We should be honored to know those outside the profession recognize his significant contributions to society. We can also be justly proud that a dentist, and thereby the contributions dentists make, are being recognized.”

Huntington’s local Historical Society agrees. They recently approved construction of a historical marker to be placed at the site of Dr. King’s former dental practice. The move has the support of the Mayor of Huntington, as well as the Indiana Historical Bureau. The event is scheduled for June 20, 2018, at 11:30 (am) at the site of Dr. King’s last dental practice- 322 North Jefferson Street, Huntington, Indiana. A luncheon at Huntington University will be hosted by the Huntington County Historical Society immediately following the dedication. Please RSVP to Dr. Regan so your presence may be recognized. Mark your calendars — this is an event that you do not want to miss. For more information, contact Dr. John E. Regan at johnregandds@gmail.com.