Memphis dentist elected the new president of the National Dental Association

MEMPHIS, TN – Dr. Joe O’Neal knows about being busy.

For the last 41 years he has run a successful dental practice and served 28 years in the Army Reserve’s Medical Unit, retiring as Colonel just two years ago.

“I have been a busy person,” says O’Neal.

His calendar is about to get even fuller.
Dr. O’Neal has been elected President of the National Dental Association, a first for a dentist from West Tennessee.

“It takes as certain amount of dedication to do it. Dedication, time, involvement,” says O’Neal.

The National Dental Association has a long history dating back to the late 1800s, when black dentists weren’t allowed to be a part of the American Dental Association.

“They were just not letting blacks in. That was just the way it was,” says O’Neal.

But dentists of color knew there was a huge need for dental education and care in the black community.
They knew they had to find a way to connect the people of color with the professionals.

” Our views reflect the lives that we live and the communities that we serve,” says O’Neal. “We try to make people of color aware of the fact that dental health is important. Your whole body can be diagnosed or started from your oral condition.”

The NDA remains a strong voice in the African-American community.  Dr. O’Neal hopes to take it even further.

“We are trying to get more treatment to more people. People can actually die because of not getting proper dental treatment. We are trying to make sure that doesn’t happen in the future,” says O’Neal.

Dr. O’Neal says he faced many challenges in his education and career…but he wants to show challenges can be overcome.

“They look at me and say you have a speech problem. So there are things you can’t do. I did them. Never let anybody limit you as to what you can do in your life,” he says.

Now he wants to support up and coming African-American dental students and reach a new generation of dentists.
He is willing to make the sacrifice and give West Tennessee a voice.

“I am not gonna be here forever. So I have to do what I can while I can,” says O’Neal.

The Shelby County Dental Association will hold a public reception to honor Dr. Joe O`Neal Saturday at 1:00pm at the National Civil Rights Museum.

It is free and open to the public.