Medical Symbol





The profession of dentistry in St. George and Southern Utah began with the graduation of Wilford Charles Cox from Northwestern University in 1911. For a short while Dr. Cox advertised as an itinerant dentist travelling to where and when needed in southern Utah. From one of his advertisements, a woman named Elizabeth Leany noticed a picture of him and immediately thought this is the man she would marry. She was in her thirties at the time and he was forty, but the impression came to reality and they were married. The marriage then placed them in a permanent home in St. George and the first full-time dentist.

Dr. Cox discovered the effect of Flouride on the teeth. Several people came from Leeds with yellow mottled teeth and no cavities. So he went and took several samples from wells in Leeds and had them assayed. He found there was a high Flouride content in their drinking water. Elizabeth said he reported that to the Utah Dental Society. No record has been found of him being credited for that discovery.

The next dentist remembered by Dr. Whitehead is Michael (Mike) O. Hutchings. His office was in the McGregor Medical Clinic at 230 East Tabernacle. The next dentist in St. George was ElMyrr Cox followed by Walter Snow who practiced at 18 North Main. Other dentists who followed were Alpine Prince, Jay Blake, Lee Atkin, Joseph Hamilton, Mervyn Cox, George Sanford, Larry Staples and Richard Whitehead 1971.

Dentistry really began to change in scope at this point. Richard Whitehead hired, Jan Creason, the first dental hygienist in 1971. The first Panorex (full mouth x-ray machine) appeared in St. George in the early 1970’s.

After completing an Oral Surgery program at the University of Maryland Dr. Whitehead was the first dentist admitted on the hospital staff in 1970. He performed the first dental implant in St. George. The implant was made of carbon and was tooth shaped. It worked, but soon the gingiva (gum tissue) turned dark.

Another implant procedure was introduced by a dentist in Beaver, Utah. Teeth extracted from one person for orthodontic purposes were frozen in an antibiotic solution and when another needed that tooth they were reimplanted into another patient. This procedure was successful on several patients in St. George.

Another interesting transplant procedure performed in St. George follows: After verifying that a teenage patient had the same biologic father and mother, a bicuspid tooth that was removed for orthodontic purposes from a girl was immediately transplanted into the mouth of her brother who was missing that tooth. It worked well, but after 7 years the roots began to resorb and the tooth had to be removed.

Dr. Whitehead studied extensively with Dr. Lenny Linkow in New York City. Dr. Linkow was considered to be the father of implantology in the United States. He also studied several weeks with Dr. Sinjar Bhaskar the Chief of Oral Pathology, United States Army.

In 1978 the first full mouth mandibular implant was placed by Dr. Whitehead. The patient was his aunt Cleo Wardle. As of this writing, nearly 50 years later the implant is still in place and functioning well. Undoubtedly one of the longest functioning implants of that type ever placed anywhere. Similar implants of this nature were later placed by Dr. Whitehead and Dr. Richard Jennings

With new technology, tooth shaped dental implants were safely placed by many dentists in St. George. When properly placed these implants are very successful and a real blessing to the patients that receive them.

In 1971 there were 9 dentists practicing in St. George. In 2022, there are reportedly more than 160 practicing here.

Number of Dentists in the County:

      1940        ?
      2022> 160


The Evolution of Dentistry from Early Times
From a PowerPoint presentation by James N. Ence DDS

Early History of Dentistry in St. George, Utah
By Dr. Richard G. Whitehead, September 29, 2022

Images of Faith: A Pictorial History of St. George, Utah
By Lynne Clark, 2012
See pages 101 and 103