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The Wolverine Dental Society is the Metro Detroit based Dental Society for African American Dentists. All minority dentists in the area are welcome to become members of WDS. We meet monthly for dinner meetings with guest speakers on a variety of dental health topics relevant to the profession of dentistry.

The Wolverine Dental Society was founded in 1934 by a small group of African American dentists in Detroit. Dr. O.W. Terrell held the first meeting in his home.  Dr. Haley Bell, the organizations first president and Dr. Ira Whitby shared ideas for the Society. Along with the support and ideas of several other African American dentists in the area the Wolverine Dental Society was established. 


The Wolverine Dental Society (WDS) was created as a direct result of the racism and exclusion experienced by black dentists in the other professional organizations. The WDS members worked to overcome this discrimination and make achievements in their profession.  Where some organization allowed African Americans to become dues paying members they did not allow them equal participation and their professional needs and concerns were ignored. The WDS provided the platform for these progressive men and women to voice their opinions, share their knowledge with one another and socialize with fellow doctors. The WDS also provided and continues to provide the opportunity to resolve problems faced by black dentists that affected themselves, their practices, students and patients.

Over time opportunities became available that previously were not accessible to minority dentists. As the WDS grew so did its ability to expand what they could offer its members. in the 1950's the focus was on making scientific and educational programs available to the members. During the 1960's and 1970's, the society was successful in breaking down barriers to admission of minority students at the University of Detroit and the University of Michigan. An aggressive approach was taken by attacking state funds received by both dental schools.

Appointments in teaching and administrative positions at both dental schools increased over the years. As well as more African American Dentists took leadership positions on the majority organizations. Dr. Gist was the first African American Dentist of the American Dental Association in 2011.

Participation in community service projects began in the 60’s and continued through the years with Head Start, Community Dental Health and Medicaid. In the 80’s WDS began offering accredited continuing education course to members.

WDS has continued to grow and work diligently to advance opportunities for the African American Dentist, build relationships throughout the dental community, and to serve their patients in underserved communities.

The National Dental Association


The National Dental Association (NDA) is the parent organization for African American Dental Societies across the country. Established in 1913, the NDA  led the struggle for equality and fairness in the field of dentistry. Today it represents more than  7,000 dentists and their Auxiliary Groups, the hygienists, students, assistants, spouses and families. 

The Wolverine Dental Society hosted the NDA's 34th Annual Convention in 1947, its 60th in 1973, its 75th in 1988 and its 95th in 2008. 2023's convention will be held in New Orlean. For more about the NDA visit the NDA Convention page of our website.

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