History of the Sydney Dental School


The Sydney Dental School at the University of Sydney is Australia’s first dental school. For over a century, we have been at the heart of the dental community in Australia. During this time, we have led improvements in education, and enhanced our understanding of disease and treatments which has improved population health.


On 1 January 1901, the passing of the Dentists Act allowed, for the first time, the licensing of dental practitioners in Australia. In March 1901, Sydney Dental School opened with 17 students, offering a three-year curriculum leading to a Licence in Dentistry.This led to the establishment of the Board of Dental Studies, including University and honorary staff members of the Dental Hospital.

From the beginning, the integration of education and clinical practice was integral to our approach. The first candidates to the Bachelor of Dental Surgery, including 11 men and two women, were admitted to the course in 1906. Four years later, the Board of Dental Studies proposed that the Doctor of Dental Science degree be established at the University of Sydney.

The Dentists Act was amended in 1934, eliminating the system of apprenticeships. The University of Sydney became the only institution for training state-recognised dental practitioners.

Continuing into the 1940s, we began to champion the importance of life-long learning, offering continuing education programs for the dental profession. The first full-time, dental postgraduate education in Australia was offered in 1959, when the faculty created the Diploma in Public Health Dentistry, followed by the Master of Dental Science in 1964.

In the 1970s the faculty reviewed its undergraduate curriculum, leading to the Bachelor of Dental Surgery course in 1978. Discrete disciplines within the faculty were established in the 1990s, each under the general supervision of a head of discipline.

In 2001, the faculty introduced a new four-year graduate-entry program, the Bachelor of Dentistry. The curriculum was based on student-centric, problem-based learning with an emphasis on small group discussion.

During this time, the Sydney Dental School embarked on a strategic partnership with the Sydney Medical School to support this educational initiative. In 2012, the faculty introduced the master's level Doctor of Dental Medicine program.

Today, we offer evidence-based undergraduate and postgraduate courses, as well as continuing education for established practitioners, to domestic and international students.

Clinical teaching and research facilities

In 1905, United Dental Hospital of Sydney was formed. Today, it is Sydney Dental Hospital. Many of our academics and honorary academics work there professionally to deliver evidence-based education to students in the clinical setting.

During the 1920s, the generosity of the McCaughey benefaction made possible the creation of several new faculties within the University, including a Sydney Dental School. The establishment of the Dental School and its later evolution as a faculty were made possible thanks to the endeavours of Dr Richard Fairfax Reading.

In the 1970s, planning commenced for a second clinical school to be established in the Westmead Centre, now known as Westmead Hospital. The hospital was opened for medical patients in 1978 and accepted its first dental patients in 1980. The Westmead Hospital Dental Clinical School, now the Westmead Centre for Oral Health, has become a major facility for both our undergraduate and postgraduate education and training.

Research at the Sydney Dental School is now conducted nationally and internationally in clinical labs and communities, including the Institute for Dental Research, the oldest research institute in Australia, at Westmead Hospital (Western Sydney Local Health District) and Sydney Dental School.

Through generous donations from alumni and supporters, the faculty has introduced clinical simulation technology to enhance teaching and the student learning experiences.

The faculty’s vision for the future is to establish a dental clinic and research centre at the University of Sydney, integrating research, clinical treatment and education. The proposed centre will introduce state-of-the-art equipment for teaching and will enable research to be fully integrated with clinical treatment. Such a facility will attract internationally distinguished researchers and teachers and will support the teaching of specialty courses.


Our research is classified as “above world standard” by the Australian Research Council. While early research efforts focused on pain and its physiological effects, the research themes of today address major health issues, with a focus on three main areas, 'lifespan oral health', 'ageing well, ageing productively' and 'chronic diseases'.

Our innovative research is delivering advances in treatment, improving our understanding of the complex mechanisms that cause disease, promoting evidence-based teaching, and driving improved health outcomes across Australia and around the world.