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! 

Related Course

E3: Restorative Integration of Form & Function

DATE: October 5 2025 @ 8:00 am - October 9 2025 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 41

Dentist Tuition: $ 7400

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

Understanding that “form follows function” is critical for knowing how to blend what looks good with what predictably functions well. E3 is the phase of your Essentials journey in which…

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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.

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