History of the orthodontic societies

In 1994 the five orthodontics societies which represented different areas of the profession united to form The British Society of Orthodontics. This article examines how the five societies came to be formed and their unification.

At the bottom of the page there is a more detailed article and some examples of objects relating to the societies from the museum collection.

The BSSO was the first orthodontic society, formed in 1907 at the instigation of the prominent London dentist George Northcroft. At the time interest in orthodontics was increasing within the dental profession but treatment was very expensive and beyond the reach of most people. Northcroft wrote to his dental colleagues inviting them to his practice on 21st October 1907 to discuss the formation of an orthodontic society. It was agreed and the first meeting was held on 5th December 1907 when J.H. Badcock was elected President. The purpose of the BSSO was for the promotion of orthodontics and to provide a place to discuss treatment and cases. The growth of the orthodontic profession, an increased demand for treatment and the formation of the NHS in 1948 led to the need for representation.

The BSSO’s purpose was purely for the research and promotion of orthodontics and so they had no involvement in the political issues facing the profession. The need for representation increased following the huge increase in demand for orthodontic treatment when it was included under the provisions of the NHS in 1948. This led to the formation of four other orthodontic societies representing different elements of the profession:

1961 - Consultants Orthodontists Group (COG)

1965 - British Association of Orthodontists (BAO)

1974 - Community Orthodontists Group of the BAO (ComOG)

1978 - Association of University Teachers of Orthodontists (AUTO).

It soon became clear that having so many societies for a relatively small profession was unsustainable, with many orthodontists having to be a member of several societies. Unification had been suggested several times over the years as the societies worked together for the Orthodontic Standards Working Party and the jointly run British Orthodontic Conference, but it was responding to the threat to orthodontics contained in the Schanschieff report that brought the profession together. The Report unexpectedly questioned the validity of orthodontic treatment within the NHS. In response the societies established the Joint Response Committee to strongly robust the accusations within the Report.

In 1990 the BAO and BSSO established the Unification Working Party, with the other societies joining soon after. Negotiations on the new society were heated and it took three years for the proposal to finally be accepted in September 1993.

The first full meeting of the BOS Council was held at the British Orthodontic Conference in Harrogate on 2nd October 1994 and despite concerns, was quickly accepted by its members and other professional bodies.

The Society was initially based at the Eastman Dental Hospital. In 2006 it moved to its current home in Bridewell Place, London. It has undergone two restructures in recent years to better reflect the Society’s charitable aims and objectives.

Collection and archives

The BOS business archive and the archives of the preceding societies are held at the Wellcome Library. The archive contains the minutes of the Council and of ordinary and general meetings, 1907-1985; country meetings programmes, 1961-1975; Transactions of the British Society for the Study of Orthodontics, 1908-1971; BSSO Committee reports from the 1920s and 1940s.


British Orthodontic Society, (2002). A History of the British Orthodontic Societies. London: British Orthodontic Society.

Leighton, B.C., Howard, R.D. (1981) Orthodontics - the last hundred years. British Dental Journal. 151(1): 14-19.

Taylor, G.S., Nicolson, M. (2007). The emergence of orthodontics as a speciality in Britain: The role of the British Society for the Study of Orthodontics. Medical History. 51(3): 379-398.