The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry celebrates the past, present, and future of dentistry while sharing the importance of a healthy mouth in a healthy life. Our exhibitions, programming, and collections capture the often-overlooked history hidden behind your smile and the scientists, tradesmen, and professionals that have shaped the field throughout history.

Located on the site of the University of Maryland’s first “Dental Infirmary and Laboratory Building,” which was then part of the Dental Department in the School of Medicine in 1882, and housed in the University’s second Dental School building erected in 1903, the NMD is located at the heart of the University System of Maryland’s founding campus in Baltimore and at the epicenter of the beginnings of professional dentistry.

The NMD’s extensive 40,000 object collection of dental instruments and equipment, pop culture and personal oral care items, artwork, and everything in between is one of the largest and oldest collections in the world related to dentistry, and one of the reasons Congress designated the museum as the official museum of the dental profession in the United States.

The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry is also a proud Smithsonian Affiliate. To learn more about Smithsonian Affiliations, visit affiliations.si.edu.

Support the Museum


Inspiring the future of oral health through celebrating the heritage of the dental profession.

NMD Priorities

  • Improving oral health through education.
  • Serving as the leading steward of dental history.
  • Being the cultural bridge between the dental profession and the public.

Core Values

Oral health is integral to overall health: 

Oral health is not just about healthy teeth; it includes the health of the gums, bones, ligaments, muscles, glands, and nerves of the craniofacial complex (your head, face, and oral cavity) and how they support and are indicators for the overall health of your body and mind. We are dedicated to enhancing the understanding of oral health through our educational programming, diverse exhibitions, and growing permanent collections.

Everyone deserves a healthy smile:

Our mouths are an essential part of our lives and our community. They allow us to speak our minds, taste the wonders of our cultures, kiss the ones we care for, and convey a world of feelings and emotions. An unhealthy smile can keep us quiet, take the enjoyment out of food, diminish our confidence, and create a world of constant pain. There are underserved and underrepresented communities that suffer from lack of access to oral health care and a lack of proper oral health education resulting in the increase of preventable and treatable oral diseases. We are dedicated to creating, providing, and supporting the improvement of oral health equity for EVERYONE through our programming and partnerships.

Dentistry goes beyond the dental office:

Dentistry is a fascinating part of our daily lives and cultures. The dental profession has made an impact on art, entertainment, toys, sports, politics, civil rights, history, science, and so much more. It has changed how we study ancient cultures, determined how we identify countless species, enhanced how we drink water, and incorporated itself into our daily lives with brushing twice a day. We are dedicated to celebrating the impact and inclusion of the dental profession in every part of our society through our innovative programming, engaging exhibitions, and unique collections.

Dentistry is nothing to be afraid of:

Throughout much of history, dentistry has been reactive to the patient’s problems causing numerous individuals of all ages to experience unbearable pain and crippling fear that was then associated with the dental profession. Since the founding of the world’s first dental school, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, in 1840, dental professionals have drastically improved their ability to properly deal with pain and even prevent pain for countless individuals thanks to advancements in the understanding of oral health issues, technology, and education. We are dedicated to enlightening our audience on the benefits of proper oral health care and the progress dentistry has achieved through our outreach, exhibitions, and programming.

Dr. Samuel D. Harris

Have you noticed that name that precedes “National Museum of Dentistry” on just about every official and unofficial form of public outreach from the museum? Although his name in the museum’s title was a direct result of a million dollar donation during the founding of the museum, Dr. Harris’s legacy is not only something the museum is proud to be associated with, but it is also very fitting to what the museum embodies and strives to achieve.

Not to be confused with Chapin A. Harris, the co-founder of the first dental school, professional society, and professional journal, Dr. Samuel D. Harris merits his own recognition for a lifetime of advancing pediatric oral health and the field’s professional endeavors.

His story starts in Romney, Russia on April 23, 1903 as the son of Harry and Fannie Harris. The family emigrated from Russia a year later, settling in Ontario, Canada first and after eight more years ending up in Michigan. A young Samuel would go on to attend Detroit public schools and stay local to graduate with a Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1924. While at the University of Michigan, he attended a lecture given by Dr. Russell Bunting about the “anterior side of dentistry,” which explained how dentistry for children is what can alleviate a large portion of the dental issues in adulthood that would arise without proactive oral health care. This lecture cemented Dr. Harris’s path to becoming a champion for children’s oral health.

Not to be confused with Chapin A. Harris, the co-founder of the first dental school, professional society, and professional journal, Dr. Samuel D. Harris merits his own recognition for a lifetime of advancing pediatric oral health and the field’s professional endeavors.

With recommendations from Dr. Bunting and the Dean of dental school, Harris was accepted into the Forsyth Infirmary for Children in Boston a year after completing dental school, where he spent most of his time extracting teeth, but also studying what little material existed on dentistry for children at the time and becoming very familiar with the authors of those works.

After finishing at Forsyth, he returned to Detroit eager to share his knowledge about children’s dentistry and find like-minded dental professionals to progress the field. As a result, what can be seen as a pilot for a national organization, Harris founded the Detroit Pedodontic Study Club in December 1926. As luck would have it, the American Dental Association announced its annual convention in 1927 was to be held in Detroit. Dr. Harris was quick to take advantage of this opportunity by assembling a group of his contemporaries to discuss the formation of a national society focused on dentistry for children at the convention. On October 26, 1927, just three years after determining to dedicate his life to children’s oral health, Dr. Harris had laid the groundwork for establishing the American Society for the Promotion of Children’s Dentistry and its journal. He followed up the creation of the national organization with pushing for state units as a means of encouraging wider representation in the field. At the 1931 meeting of the Michigan State Dental Society, Harris formed the Michigan Society of Dentistry for Children, and by 1940 Dr. Harris was integral in helping to establish 19 other state societies.

In 1952, the newly named American Society of Dentistry for Children, celebrated its 25th year of success. Dr. Harris utilized the occasion to expand the impact of dentistry for children by reaching out to dentists around the globe, helping to establish societies in Latin America, South America, and Europe. By 1954, the Pan-American Council of Dentistry for Children was established with Dr. Harris as its President, but it was not until 1969 that Dr. Harris’s vision of an international society would be realized. Twenty years after its inception, the International Association of Dentistry for Children would recognize Dr. Harris for his efforts and achievements with an Honorary Membership to the association.

Around the same time Dr. Harris received his long-deserved recognition from the International Association of Dentistry for Children, a group of American dentists and dental organizations were meeting and working to establish a national museum for the profession of dentistry. Dr. Harris had been interested in this idea for some time as well, as indicated from a 1983 letter of his to the Smithsonian, in which he states,

 “Over a period of sixty years I have seen…dental memorabilia totally lost to prosperity and wonder how much of it is being salvaged by the Smithsonian and/or should the American Dental Association be establishing a repository for preserving such historical items.”

Once he found out the museum needed additional funding to go from an idea to a reality, he did as he was accustomed to do in pursuing his interests and supporting what he believed in, by donating $1 million on June 3, 1992, and by the time the museum opened on June 22, 1996, he was recognized for his support in not only having the museum being named The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry, but also by being the individual to cut the floss and officially open the doors to the public.

Dr. Harris continued to be an integral supporter of the museum until his death in 2003. His family continues his legacy of philanthropy and support of dental education and the advancement of the dental field, especially when it comes to dentistry for children.


Tuesday - Friday: 10am to 4pm


31 S. Greene St. Baltimore, MD 21201



The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry is an auxiliary enterprise of the University of Maryland, School of Dentistry at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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