About the Mississippi Dental Association

MDA History1

From the beginning, members of the Mississippi Dental Association have proudly worked together on behalf of the profession of dentistry in Mississippi and the patients they serve. Through the years, the MDA has established itself as the premier dental organization in our state. The MDA has continued the tradition of improving oral health care for all Mississippians through promoting the profession of dentistry, collaborating with community partners to increase awareness of the importance of oral health care and advocating for the provision of dental care throughout our state.

Our Mission Statement

The mission of the Mississippi Dental Association is:

  • to encourage the improvement of the oral health of the public;
  • to enhance members' ability to provide care to the public through education, training and service;
  • and to promote the science of dentistry.

A Brief History of the Mississippi Dental Association

The Mississippi State Dental Association was founded in Vicksburg, Mississippi on April 21, 1875.  The founding fathers of the MSDA were; Dr. J. D. Miles of Vicksburg, Dr. J. B. Askew of Vicksburg, Dr. A. Rivers of Port Gibson, Drs. A. H. and O. B. Hilzim of Jackson, Dr. Ben Jones of Jackson, and Dr. C. C. Marshall of Crystal Springs.

Dr. J. D. Miles was elected the association's first president, Dr. James B. Askew became the first vice president, and Dr. A. H. Hilzim was the first secretary.              

In 1875, there were 125 practicing dentists in Mississippi and seven men attended the organizational session of the MSDA. Annual sessions were held again in 1876 with eight men in attendance. 1877 saw only four members attending.

The 1878 and 1879 sessions were cancelled due to the prevalence of yellow fever in the South.

In 1880, the first dental practice act was submitted to the Mississippi Legislature, but was defeated in the Senate.

1882 saw the first real growth in membership for the MSDA, with 15 attending the annual session in Jackson. The membership adjourned to attend an exhibit given by S. S. White, the first dental supply house to ever be represented at an annual association function.

The Dental Law proposed in 1882 passed through the Legislature promptly and was embodied in the laws of the State on February 25, 1882. This law provided for a Board of Dental Examiners to be appointed by Governor Lowry. Five MSDA dentists were appointed.

With the passage of the Dental Law, Mississippi dentists became more interested in organized dentistry. During the 1884 annual session in Jackson, Dr. W. H. Morgan of Nashville, Tennessee gave a clinic that demonstrated the use of gold as a filling material in the distal surface of a lower bicuspid. His patient was the MSDA President for 1884, Dr. I. B. Rembert. Subsequent presidents have not volunteered their services for demonstration purposes at annual sessions to our knowledge.

The Mississippi State Dental Association decided in May 1893 to obtain a charter to contain all the names of members of the Association that were in good standing. This was done "owing to some rumours that some other organizations were being started." Therefore, the first charter for the Mississippi State Dental Association was granted on May 9, 1893 by Governor J. M. Stone.


The 51st MDA Convention in Meridian, MS in 1926

Accordingly, the first annual meeting of the newly formed Mississippi Dental Association was held in Natchez on May 3, 1894. The word, 'State', had been left out of the charter by accident, so the first action of the chartered association was to reorganize under a new name, the Mississippi Dental Association.

In 1926, the Legislature provided for a dentist to be appointed as a member of the State Board of Health, and Dr. W. R. Wright of the MDA was selected. He held this position for 24 years. In that same year, the Association sponsored Mouth Health Week, giving $50 awards to the first six schools that had 100% compliance from its students. Dental Certificates were awarded these students, also.

Mississippi was the first state to use Dental Certificates, which are now in evidence throughout the United States.

During World War II, the MDA began publishing the Journal, a quarterly publication. Dr. Fayette C. Williams, Sr. served as the first editor during the early years.

The Mississippi Dental Association has had an executive director since 1959. In 1977, Mrs. Carolyn Simmons was hired as Executive Director, she retired in 2000, and was followed by Mrs. Connie Lane who retired in 2018.  Mrs. Shannon Coker currently serves in the role of Executive Director of the MDA.

By 1972, the MDA had grown large enough to expand its Central Office and purchase a headquarters at 1764 Lelia Drive in Jackson. In April 1979, the MDA Central Office was severely flooded by the Pearl River, as was most of Jackson, Mississippi. This devastating flood resulted in the relocation of the MDA Central Office to a condo location at 2630 Ridgewood Road in Jackson where it remained for the next thirty years.  In May 2011 the MDA purchased a new office building at 439 B Katherine Drive in Flowood, MS.

Many of the artifacts and historical documents belonging to the MDA were destroyed or permanently damaged as a result of the 1979 flood. Fortunately, the Mississippi Dental Association 100-Year History (1875-1975), was published in 1975. Much of our history to that period was included in this 36-page document and several copies are on file with the MDA Central Office in Jackson.



Vicksburg dentists and MDA officials gather to commemorate the 100th anniversary in 1975

The most significant development since 1975 has been the establishment of the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry in 1975. Since graduating its first class in 1979, the UMSD has placed hundreds of new dentists into the dental population of Mississippi.

From our auspicious beginnings in 1875, where membership numbered less than the fingers of one member's hands, the MDA has grown to an active membership of  approximately 1,000 in 2019. On April 21, 2020, the MDA will celebrate its 145th anniversary.

From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow, so likewise, mighty associations flourish from tiny beginnings.