In April 1931, the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance was introduced. The seal is still in use today and has been widely praised in dental literature as a symbol of safety, efficacy and credibility within dental therapeutics and an icon of professionalism for the American Dental Association. The celebratory rhetoric perpetuates a problematic narrative of a unified profession. I argue that it is necessary to go beyond the standard narrative. The complex history of the introduction of the acceptance programme in 1930 and 1931 revolves around personal zeal and struggles for authority between different fractions within the American Dental Association seeking to balance professional ideals with economic necessities. I show how authority and professional identity was claimed, redistributed and communicated within a professional organisation, and demonstrate how the seal was invoked to influence marketing strategies of dental manufacturers, reverse the relationship between manufacturers and the profession of dentistry, to brand dentistry in a wider, public context, and how it became an economic thorn in the side of the Board of Trustees of the American Dental Association.
Medicine Studies, 2012, Vol 3, Issue 4, p. 197-214