Dr. Esther Wilkins, rock star of dental hygiene, dies

Esther Wilkins, RDH, DMD, died on December 12 at age 100. She was perhaps the most influential dental hygienist of the last 100 years.

Dr. Wilkins began her career in 1939 at a small Massachusetts dental practice, before leaving six years later to pursue a dentistry degree at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston. She completed that program and then served an internship at the Eastman Dental Dispensary in Rochester, NY. After this internship, she was asked by the University of Washington (UW) to start that university's dental hygiene program. It was during her 12 years at UW that she wrote the first edition of the now-classic textbook Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist.

Dr. Wilkins returned to Tufts for postgraduate periodontal research and then was a clinical professor in the School of Dental Medicine. After retirement, she served as a clinical professor of periodontology emerita at Tufts. According to a Tufts profile of Dr. Wilkins, she gave more than 800 continuing education lectures during her career.

The Wilkins/Tuft Explorer instrument is named after Dr. Wilkins.

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