One hundred years of dentistry in Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

One hundred years of dentistry in Sri Lanka

12 March, 2017

Hundred years of organised dentistry is an important milestone for any profession. It is an opportunity not only to commemorate and rejoice but also to look back and take stock of its achievements and to plan what is in store for the future. The authors attempts to do all that and compiled a ‘Coffee table book on Dentistry in this country during the last One Hundred Years’.

A work that attempts to examine the birth, growth and development of a profession that has a history of hundred years must research into the aspects that make dentistry a profession; a high level of excellence going above and beyond basic requirements, built around an internal moral system, displaying high competency, honesty and integrity. The personalization and their credentials and the institutions that fostered this development have to be researched into, in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the dental profession. The discerning reader would know that the authors of this book have diligently and thoroughly done their work. The authors would have had to study the past to understand the present and Dr. Cooray’s substantial knowledge of that subject would have been a great asset in this regard.

This book brings together many interesting facts from the past 100 years about important events and profiles of some of the leading personalities. Its material draws on a wide range of sources which most dentists, let alone others, would not normally read.

Hotel clinics

The book is ordered in eight chapters: origin of organised dentistry, dental education bringing dental care to the people, looking after the needs of the profession, school dental services and the therapist’s training school, women in dentistry, defence forces dentistry, and some important achievers. The first group of dentists arrived from the UK to be registered on a dental list held by the Ceylon Medical College Council. Sperling Christoffelsz was the first to be so registered under the Dental Ordinance, in 1915. But Sydney William Garne LDSRCS (Eng) was the first true dentist, with no medical qualification. In 1947 Rosaline Karthigesu LDS (Cey) was the first female dentist. Treatment started in private clinics in some Colombo hotels, eventually giving rise to many general practices plus a range of government clinics and dentistry provided for the armed forces and school children.

A dental school was started in 1938 in the Ceylon Medical College: all the staff with UK qualifications. Dentistry was a medical postgraduate qualification until 1940. That course ceased because of the war. In 1943 a dental school opened as part of the Ceylon Medical College of the University of Ceylon in Colombo. 1947 saw the first four graduates; BDS or LDS. By 1925 there was a growing dental need, so a dental department opened in Colombo’s General Hospital.

Dr. Balendra MRCS LRCP LDS the first person in charge, was the first dental surgeon in government service. 1951 saw the beginnings of a preventive program with the establishment of a school service on the lines of the New Zealand dental nurse model. Initially trained in NZ, their own school opened in 1955. In 1983 school dental nurses were renamed school dental therapist.

An appendix lists Sri Lankan dentists eminent both in that country and abroad, several of whom will be recognised by our readers.


This work deals with all aspects of the dental profession as it exists today in Sri Lanka and also tells us the story of its development chronologically highlighting all the important landmarks. It also attempts to give a profile of the pioneers.

The comprehensive description of the dental services both in the government and the private sector gives an idea of the spread and the access dentistry ad a health facility has achieved in these hundred years which had started as private dental clinics in a few hotels in the city of Colombo. The dental services in the armed force, the schools, and also dental auxiliaries have received adequate attention of the authors.

One hundred years of dentistry in Sri Lanka provides fascinating reading. It is an excellent history of Dentistry in Sri Lanka where students of dentistry will look for details about development in the country.

The authors have converted it to a well-illustrated format which makes story easily readable by anyone, not only the oral health personnel. This coffee table book could easily take its place in the achieve of literary endeavour and adorn any medical library or an addition to dentist’s coffee table at home or in their waiting rooms in their practices and their book racks at home.