How Pankey Dentists Shaped the Evolution of Modern Dentistry: The ‘Sit-Down’ Chair

September 13, 2017 Jay Anderson DDS

Between the mid 1950s and early 1960s, four significant innovations converged to permanently change the dental profession worldwide. All four innovations had dentists behind them that were connected to the the Pankey Institute years later. Modern dentistry evolved from their forward thinking.

One of these innovations was ‘sit-down’ dentistry. My father Dr. John Anderson played a large part in designing the chair that enabled dentists to sit while working with patients. Today, I tell his story.

A Pankey Dentist Shapes Modern Dentistry: The ‘Sit-Down’ Chair

Up until the late 50s, most if not all dentists worldwide were standing up doing dentistry with no dental assistants. The ‘work smarter, not harder’ theme of the time period ushered in the need for a type of dental chair that could accommodate more efficient and better care of the patient, as well as benefits to the doctor’s own ergonomic health.

The major dental manufacturers of the day, when approached with the concept of sit-down dentistry, flatly said “that would never work.”

At a dental convention, my father Dr. John Anderson approached a contour chair exhibit and met a salesman/owner named John Naughton. Sales were not good. My father asked Naughton if he would be willing to risk a new application of his contour chair for dentistry. Naughton basically responded, “What do I have to lose? I’m going broke.”

The long and short of this is that the first sit-down dental chair was placed in my father’s Chicago dental office. It was a full contour chair that had some significant restrictions. My father suggested a split-back design that is now used by every dental chair manufacturer in the world.

The first split-back chair was produced by Dental-Ez Corporation and called the ‘J-Chair.’ It is still being used throughout the US and world along with many other designs. John Naughton later sold Dental-Ez for eight million dollars.

My father’s creativity in modifying the dental chair forever changed how dentists practice dentistry.

What makes you proud to be a Pankey dentist? We’d love to hear from you in the comments! 

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About Author

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Jay Anderson DDS

Dr. Anderson practice in Grand Forks, ND in his own fee for service office until moving to Arizona in 2015. He now practices at Desert Sun Smiles in Glendale, AZ. He is a long time faculty member at the Pankey Institute. His passion for small group learning began as a member of a study club with Dr. Henry Tanner and then evolved into his facilitating numerous groups of dentists focused on appliance therapy and functional issues. Jay is passionate about individualized care and continuous learning.

3 thoughts on “How Pankey Dentists Shaped the Evolution of Modern Dentistry: The ‘Sit-Down’ Chair

  1. Although I never met your Dad, I was influenced by watching the way he worked with folks through the videotapes the Pankey Institute had of him practicing. Many verbal skills that I made my own came from him! I worked 34 years in my practice moving around my 2 “J” chairs………never did as well as that Dental Eze guy but still made out OK!!! I and so many in the profession owe a lot to him and YOU my friend!!!

  2. Jay – you know I knew your dad; he started influencing me just before I went to college. Your dad’s office at the time was at the corner of Foster and California Avenues in Chicago and my college was just five blocks west of it. I visited it a few times when he had the contoured chair and had cut a hole in the floor and set the hydraulic lift unit down in the whole so the dental chair was lower and allowed him to sit on his dental stool and have his legs form a 90 degree angle at his knee. All of his “Time and Motion” studies informed dental manufactures and the equipment that was available to me when I set up my first office in ’67 after my GPR at Denver General Hospital. Changed my life and practice!

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