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Your Oral Health Service

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Our History

Establishing a dental school at Sydney was first proposed in 1897 at the University of Sydney. A provisional curriculum was drawn up by the Senate. However, the efforts stalled as there were no laws governing the practice of dentistry in New South Wales. Any person could set up in dental practice, so no action was taken until the passing of the Dentists Act in 1900.

Dentistry as a profession was formally established in New South Wales on 1 January 1901, when the Dentists Act was implemented. The Dentists Act provided the impetus for establishing a dental school. In March 1901 the Dental School opened, with seventeen students under the leadership of the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Initially it was proposed that dental students should obtain clinical training in the dental department of Sydney Hospital, but this was found to be impracticable.

The University Dental Hospital was therefore established in 1901 in a building at the corner of George and Bathurst Streets for the purpose of providing dental care for persons unable to pay normal dental fees and also for the purpose of providing clinical training to dental students of the University.

In 1904, a Dental Hospital of Sydney was also established by the NSW Government, to provide dental care for the poor. The building also housed a draper's shop, wholesale clothing store and other trade stores. Subsequently the two hospitals were amalgamated by Act of Parliament in 1905, to form the United Dental Hospital of Sydney in a building on its present site in Chalmers Street, Surry Hills.

The current Chalmers Street building, with its distinctive flat iron shape, stands proudly above Central Railway Station. Since it was first erected, the building has experienced many changes, including its near destruction in the fire of 1919 and the introduction of air raid precautions during World War II. The current building was designed by Stephenson Meldrum and Turner in 1937 and was built by H.G. Whittle. The earlier building was reorganised and coordinated into the new design. A glass tower enclosing one of the staircases was a feature of the new work.

Today Sydney Dental Hospital (SDH) is a leading clinical facility providing quality and safe, preventively oriented dental treatments along with oral health promotion activities in the community. Whilst we are in a historical institution, SDH has the most modern, evidence based approach to clinical service provision. We provide most basic dental care to most advance dental interventions in our state of the art facilities.

In 2004-05 the roles and responsibilities of the service were reviewed and the community oral health services arm was separated from SDH and aligned with the community oral health services provided through clinics outside of SDH. This ensured a clear separation between the emergency and general service arm of the service thereby making oral health services more accessible to the community. The community oral health clinics are an integral part of SDH and OHS by providing a comprehensive range of dental services including preventive, educational and curatives services to the community.

The longstanding partnership between SDH and the University of Sydney also dates back to the early 20th Century. This partnership has seen, and continues to see, students from the University of Sydney, Faculty of Dentistry provide valuable oral health services to the community and receive practical training to develop their professional skills and expertise.

Our Timeline

A timeline of SDH and Oral Health Services from 1904 to 2014 is available here