All candidates for the new jobs had to be between the ages of 24 and 40 and graduates of a dental college. The first week of the testing was devoted to a theoretical examination (i.e., dental anatomy, physiology, histology, chemistry, metallurgy, etc.) and the second involved examining prosthetic dentistry (i.e., "making artificial teeth, crowns, bridges, and interdental splints and the like").
Dr. Marshall was appalled at the lack of education among the 87 dentists who did make it through to the examining and interview level. He reported that many candidates were unable to write a sentence of 20 words without misspelling one-fourth of them. He blamed "the ambition to obtain wealth and position by the shortest possible route" as the root cause of a bigger problem. The ultimate culprits were many dental colleges who "when there is a deficit in the college treasury [they] wink at the meager qualifications possessed by the applicants for admission, and trust the future to correct this deficiency." As a result, Dr. Marshall was one of the first -- if not the first -- dental professional to advocate the "need of raising the standard of entrance requirements and of lengthening a course of instruction to four years."
Once the candidates were chosen, Dr. Marshall was obligated to assign the successful ones to various posts around the U.S. and overseas. He was assigned to the Presidio in San Francisco, where he presided over the fledging organization. Twenty were assigned to the Philippines, one to Cuba, one to the Dominican Republic, and the remainder scattered throughout the U.S. Each dentist was provided with a "kit of operating machinery ... each costing in the neighborhood of $300" ($7,200 in current values). The operating machinery and other dental paraphernalia were the same as found in offices of the "highest class of dentists in civil life," with the exception of the dental chair. In the army, dentists chairs were "a folding article of furniture and therefore portable." He bragged the "outfits [were] so light they can be carried on the backs of two mules." In 1901, the army was not mechanized.
The legislation, as enacted by Congress, provided that the dentists would not be actual soldiers but "contract dentists" with a pay grade equivalent to a first lieutenant. The reason being that many in Congress were skeptical about the need for dentists at all. The compromise reached essentially made the first 30 dentists guinea pigs and was an experiment to determine if a dental corps was a useful adjunct to the army.
By 1903, Dr. Marshall was able to report remarkable successes: "The services of the Dental Corps have been highly appreciated by officers and enlisted men of the Regular and Volunteer Armies and have proved very satisfactory to the Medical Department, because they have been able to relieve a great amount of acute suffering and to conserve a large number of teeth and restore them to a healthy condition, thus almost immediately returning to duty many cases that were previously carried for several days on the company sick report. This has resulted in greatly reducing the loss of valuable time to the service, incident to diseases of the mouth, teeth, and jaws, and relieving and hastening the cure of such gastric and intestinal disorders as were due to defective mastication and infective and suppurative conditions of the teeth and oral cavity."
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cadre of dental surgeons for the Army and Navy. In fact, its efforts extend back to its first convention in Washington, DC, in 1860 when it petitioned Congress to create a dental establishment for the services. Unfortunately, it was 41 years before a limited success was achieved."
The Spanish-American War in 1898 resulted in the acquisition of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and other Spanish tropical colonies and finally pushed Congress to create an army dental corps and with it the appointment of Dr. Marshall. He explained to an assemblage of the National Dental Association, "campaigning in the tropics where conditions of the climate and necessary changes in the habits of life are so enervating and debilitating to the general system." Resistance to disease under these conditions is greatly lessened, and the individual is consequently predisposed to a certain class of diseases, among which are dental caries, pulpitis, pericementitis, dentoalveolar abscess, pyorrhea alveolaris, necrosis of the jaws, and inflammatory and ulcerative conditions of the gums, oral mucous membrane, throat, and tongue, he said.
Dr. Marshall, along with two other dentists, Dr. Robert Oliver of Indianapolis and Dr. Robert Morgan of Lynchburg, VA, was appointed to the examining board. The board spent nearly six months culling through 1,000 candidates who applied for the 30 positions. They settled on 87 whom they interviewed and tested. The position would pay $150 per month (equivalent to $4,600 in current values). It's worth noting that at the time there were no federal or state income taxes imposed on wage earnings. Besides the salary, they would also receive the normal perks associated with the military, such as base housing, food, and medical care. The law also provided that the contract dentists were obligated to work for the army for eight hours a day, after which they could dedicate two hours to treat soldiers' families and civilian employees for which they could charge "the regular fee." Military dependants were not covered under the legislation.