CAO History

How it all got started

Every organization has its beginnings, its history, and its purpose. The Canadian Association of Orthodontists was no exception. Although its origin was somewhat unusual, it eventually came to fruition. The seed was planted in 1947 at a graduate orthodontic course offered by the Dental Faculty of the University of Toronto. The mentor was Dr. Robert H.W. Strang, M.D., D.D.S., a famous American orthodontist, teacher, and the author of an excellent “Text-Book of Orthodontia”. Dr. Strang studied with Dr. Edward Hartley Angle at the Angle School of Orthodontia in 1906 and admired this brilliant teacher, who is often referred to as the father of modern orthodontics.

Several Canadian orthodontists were enroled in this program of unquestionable educational substance. The fellowship engendered amongst the Canadians during this Strang Course had great significance for the orthodontists practising today. The relevance is aptly phrased in the words of the eminent Canadian orthodontist, Dr. Jack Abra from Winnipeg:

“The course lasted about a week or ten days with sessions all day and each evening. It was our practice to have dinner together so by the end of the course we were all good friends, most of us not having met before. When the course ended with a final dinner, the Canadians decided to have a reunion the following year at the American Association of Orthodontists’ (A.A.O.) meeting in Columbus, Ohio”.

“At the next meeting in Columbus in 1948, Dr. Rayburn McIntyre of Calgary in his inimitable manner played host with the assistance of his charming wife, Sibil. As I remember, there were about ten of us present. During our very enthusiastic discussions, it was decided that an association of Canadian orthodontists was desirable. We finally agreed that each of us would contact every orthodontist in Canada that we knew and urge him or her to attend the next American Association of Orthodontists’ meeting to be held in New York.”

As planned, 14 Canadian orthodontists assembled at the next A.A.O. meeting in New York with the thoughts of forming a Canadian association uppermost in their minds. Minutes of this meeting were taken and entitled, “Minutes of a meeting of a group of Canadian orthodontists held on May 4, 1949 in the Commodore Hotel, New York”. Those present were Drs. Abra and Brownlee (Winnipeg), Drs. S.S. Crouch, Culbert, Halderson, Shultis, and Lesco (Toronto), Drs. Dixon and Hamilton (Ottawa), Dr. Foster (Hamilton), Dr. Johns (Kingston), Dr. McIntyre (Calgary), Dr. Quigley (Edmonton), and Dr. Geoffrion (Montreal).

Dr. R.R. McIntyre acted as temporary chairman and opened the meeting with a frank discussion as to the desire and advisability of forming an association of Canadian orthodontists and the feasibility of being affiliated with the Canadian Dental Association (C.D.A.). A decision was made to form an association of Canadian orthodontists and to hold an annual meeting concurrent with the meeting of the A.A.O., a practice that was continued until 1959. The benefits of this arrangement would be numerous. The A.A.O. was very large with literally thousands of members. The scientific programs at their conventions were exceptional with outstanding presenters. All of the latest advances in clinical knowledge and techniques were usually discussed. The exhibitors displayed all the latest in equipment and technology. Last but not least, attendance at these meetings would provide an opportunity for the Canadian orthodontists to discuss professional ideas and problems with their American colleagues.

At the first meeting of this infant orthodontic association, Dr. McIntyre was elected President pro tem and Dr. Dixon, Secretary pro tem. A committee of four (Drs. McIntyre, Dixon, Fisk, and Franklin) was appointed by the Chairman to draft a constitution and by-laws for the next meeting in Chicago in 1950. A second committee was struck, comprised of the President, Secretary, Dr. Brownlee, and Dr. Geoffrion to investigate plans of the various provinces relating to orthodontics health plans.

And so, after a gestation period of 12 months, the fledgling association of Canadian orthodontists was born on May 4, 1949 in the Commodore Hotel, New York. Fourteen Canadian orthodontists witnessed this great event. In retrospect, it seems paradoxical that the idea of a Canadian Association of Orthodontists was conceived, nurtured and bore fruition in a foreign country.

It was evident from the discussions at the very beginning that the orthodontists were concerned about the proposed “Federal Health Scheme” which was on the agenda of the Federal Liberal government. Secretary Dixon picked up this theme in his first letter to all Canadian orthodontists, no doubt to pique their interest and concern as well get their attention. To quote from the Secretary’s letter:

“In view of the current likelihood of some form of a National Health Scheme and the probability of some amount of Government control over private practices, we, as orthodontists decided we could best represent our interest in any discussions with the authorities if we had some type of organization which spoke for all of us.”

Another interesting paragraph in this letter read as follows:

“We would appreciate if you would reply to this letter, signifying your desire to join or not to join. The temporary fee of ONE DOLLAR is now payable, if not already paid.”

The first financial report reveals that 35 orthodontists paid their dollar to join. This charter group have subsequently been recognized by the Canadian Association of Orthodontists as “Founding Members” and were made Honourary Members of the Association in 1982. One might ask the question how this group of charter members received their specialty training. By this time in the evolution of the specialty of orthodontics, and indeed since the turn of the century, orthodontists in Canada and the U.S. were dentists who received special training on orthodontic diagnosis and clinical techniques in one or more ways. Some attended private proprietary schools, such as the Angle School of Orthodontics or the Dewey School of Orthodontia in the U.S. A few enrolled in graduate orthodontic programs in university dental schools as were offered at Columbia University in New York and Northwestern University in Chicago, to name a few. Alternatively, the majority spent one or more years training under the tutelage of an experienced orthodontist–known as preceptorship training.

It is of interest to note that the American Association of Orthodontists was organized in 1901 in St. Louis with a charter membership of ten men who were physically present at the organizing meeting. Today, the A.A.O. has a membership of several thousand orthodontists.

In the following year, 24 Canadian orthodontists gathered for the second official meeting of their association in the Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago on May 7. An important business agenda was presented at this meeting. One of the first points of discussion was whether the Canadian orthodontists wanted to have a separate association or be under the umbrella of the Canadian Dental Association which was the national dental organization. Finally in their wisdom, they decided to approach the C.D.A. and request the formation of Sections for dentists in the C.D.A. who limit their practice to one of the various specialties and more specifically the formation of an Orthodontic Section.

A constitution was presented to the meeting by Dr. G. Franklin and approved after minor changes. Presently, many of the Canadian orthodontists were members of the American Association of Orthodontists. Some were concerned that membership in the new Canadian association would jeopardize their membership in the U.S. association. Dr. McIntyre, the President, read a letter from the President of the American Association of Orthodontists confirming that there would be no conflict between the two Societies and Canadians would still hold membership in the A.A.O. and the constituent societies. In the past, the A.A.O. had been very generous to Canadians and had extended full membership privileges to them. The Canadian orthodontists were very happy to know that there would be no change in this friendly relationship.

Another subject of great interest and discussion was the policy of the Federal Government regarding the imminent National Health Plan and the likelihood of some type of state dentistry in Canada. The Federal Minister of Health had advised the Canadian Dental Association that the medical phase of the plan would be in operation in three years and the dental phase one year later. It is anticipated that the Canadian Dental Association will be requesting help and guidance form the different specialty groups as to their role in a health plan. One would wonder how much contribution the Canadian orthodontists could make. In 1950, there were only 55 orthodontists in the Dominion of which 35 were paid up members. Nevertheless, the attending Canadian orthodontists at the meeting passed a resolution that they would be willing to cooperate with the C.D.A. in the development of a plan of treatment for the indigent children and sent a copy of the resolution to the Board of Governors of the C.D.A.

The next order of business at this meeting was the presentation of an “in Memorium” resolution to honour the memory of Dr. George W. Grieve. Dr. Grieve made an outstanding contribution to the science and practice of orthodontics. He was a very creative thinker and a brilliant clinical orthodontist and brought considerable honour and recognition to Canada. He was one of the first orthodontists along with Dr. Charles Tweed of Tucson who considered the judicious extraction of dental units as necessary for the successful treatment and post-treatment retention of certain types of malocclusions.

In addition, another resolution was passed to establish “The George W. Grieve Lectureship in honour of our distinguished confrere”. Both resolutions related to Dr. Grieve were accepted by the C.D.A.

In July of 1950, the C.D.A. approved the formation of the “Orthodontic Section of the Canadian Dental Association” which now replaced the name “Canadian Orthodontic Association”. The Orthodontic Section would have its own constitution, elect its own officers, operate autonomously and be responsible for its own debts. Its members would be comprised of Canadian orthodontists in good standing. There were definitely benefits for the Canadian orthodontist under this arrangement with the C.D.A. As a small independent association, they would have little clout in political or national matters. As a section, they would have input into the C.D.A. who could speak for them in matters of provincial and national interest.

From the beginning, the orthodontic association established a cooperative attitude with the C.D.A. and expressed a willingness to accept its responsibilities in the dental health plans of provincial and national importance of which there are many.

The orthodontic section grew from 35 members in 1949 to 107 in 1962. A significant change was made to the constitution this year. The name of the orthodontic section was changed. The name “Orthodontic Section of the Canadian Dental Association” was changed to the “Canadian Society of Orthodontists”.

The Canadian Society of Orthodontists is the national body representing all the orthodontists of Canada and consequently has the responsibility of ensuring that all of its members have adequate training. In 1962, contemporary opinion was that a satisfactory training for orthodontists could only be obtained through Graduate Courses in Orthodontics in Dental Schools approved by the Council on Dental Education of the Canadian Dental Association. One of the optional requirements for membership, namely, preceptorship training, was no longer tenable. Accordingly, in 1965 the constitution was amended and all references to preceptor training were deleted. The following eligibility for active members was substituted, as follows:

“A person who is in the exclusive practice of Orthodontics and hence does not engage in any type of practice other than traditionally associated with the practice of Orthodontics, and who is a member in good standing of his local, provincial and national dental organization may be elected to active membership in this Society provided the applicant has been five years in the exclusive practice of Orthodontics including a successfully completed orthodontic course in an approved dental school recognized by the Canadian Dental Association with a certificate or graduate degree to that effect”.

As the Canadian Society of Orthodontists has evolved over the years, there have been many changes in the constitution. In 1968, the constitution was amended to recognize Component Societies which represent the following regions of Canada: Atlantic Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland), Quebec, Ontario, Prairie Provinces, and British Columbia. This change in the organization allowed for consultation regarding all matters with representatives of the various component societies. In 1969, the name “Canadian Society of Orthodontists” was amended in the constitution and changed to “Canadian Association of Orthodontists”. In 1970 and later, very significant changes were made in the organization of the C.A.O. through amendments to the constitution. Each component society (now seven in all) elected a Representative to the C.A.O. The Executive is comprised of the President, President Elect, Past President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Secretary Treasurer and President of the Canadian Fund for the Advancement of Orthodontics. The Representatives of the Component Societies, namely, Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia Orthodontic Societies meet with the Executive as a Board of Directors. This arrangement ensures that all the decisions made by the Executive and the Board of Directors receive input from all regions of Canada. Additionally, the C.A.O. is represented at the Board meetings of the Canadian Dental Association where the C.A.O. representatives are informed of their policies and problems and conversely, advise them on matters affecting members of the C.A.O.

The membership of the C.A.O. has grown from 35 active members in 1949 to 588 in 2000. It was the first and is the largest specialty group of the Canadian Dental Association.

Prepared By
Dr. R.D. Haryett
CAO President 1981