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Trailblazing Dental Hygienist and Educator Celebrates 104th Birthday

Konnetta Putman-Sparks, MA, RDH, turned 104 on March 25, and the entire dental hygiene community should celebrate.

Konnetta Putman-Sparks, MA, RDH

Konnetta Putman-Sparks, MA, RDH, turned 104 on March 25, and the entire dental hygiene community should celebrate. Not only did she earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University in 1941, a time when few women—and even fewer Black women—were attending college, she went on to lead in organized dental hygiene as well as dental hygiene education.

A true pioneer, Putman-Sparks received her certificate of dental hygiene from the University of Minnesota, overcoming racism that impeded her ability to find the patients she needed to complete her clinical practicum. With support from the local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League in addition to residents of the surrounding area who volunteered to be her patients, she completed her clinicals and graduated in 1943.

After working in clinical practice, Putman-Sparks returned to her alma mater to teach in the dental hygiene program. Her prowess in the classroom led to an invitation to begin a dental hygiene program at the New York City College of Technology (City Tech) in Brooklyn. She taught at City Tech until 1975, serving as interim chairperson for a year as well.

Once the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) removed its discriminatory membership practices in 1957, Putman-Sparks joined the organization. In 1973, she became the ADHA’s first Black president.

Putman-Sparks has remained committed to philanthropic activities and the profession of dental hygiene even after she retired in the mid-1990s. And she still hears from her previous patients and students, leaving no doubt of her indelible impact on dental hygiene.

To read more about the career of Putman-Sparks, visit


From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. April 2023; 21(4):10.

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