Honouring John G.C. Adams: Canada’s father of dental public health
Canadian public health dentistry is deeply rooted in Toronto, and much of its groundwork was laid by Dr. John G.C. Adams. On April 29, during National Oral Health Month, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), along with the Ontario Dental Association (ODA), Heritage Toronto, Toronto Public Health and the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto (Uof T) unveiled a plaque commemorating Adams, regarded as the father of dental public health in Canada.
As Canada’s first resident dental missionary, Adams personally funded and operated North America’s first free dental hospital in Toronto for underprivileged children and their mothers in 1872. SickKids opened its doors three years later, and Adams became the hospital’s first dentist of record in 1883.
Adams’ passion for dental philanthropy was equally matched by his dedication to preventative oral health through education. He understood the importance of teaching families and physicians about dental education and prevention of decay before resorting to extraction. Adams advocated for dental check-ups in public schools and free dental treatment for underprivileged children. His recommendations were realized in 1911 when schools in Toronto began offering dental check-ups to students. Two years later, Canada’s first publicly funded free dental clinic was opened.
“Dr. Adams was a giant whose drive was to care for the poor, the underprivileged,” said Dr. Peter Judd, Dentist-in-Chief at SickKids. “I am honoured and humbled to be a part of this celebration and to be a part of the lineage starting with Dr. Adams of those privileged to be able to care for kids at this great institution.”
Erected at 57 Elm St., the location of his first free dental hospital, the plaque represents Adams’ lasting legacy on dental public health in Canada, one that seemed destined to be recognized.
“In 1910, Dr. Hughes, Chief Inspector of Schools for Toronto, said that the people of this city will someday erect a monument to Adams’ memory,” said Dr. David J. Kenny, former Dentist-in-Chief at SickKids and current Professor of Dentistry at the U of T. “Today, the dentists of Ontario have done just that.”