Transformed Doctors, Transforming the World: Peter E. Dawson, DDS
“I have been richly blessed by God, and I have a burning desire to do what I can to bring His message to anyone who will listen.” —Peter E. Dawson, DDS
Christian Medical & Dental Associations®
CMDA Member Dr. Peter E. Dawson, renowned clinician, teacher, author and founder of the Dawson Academy, died on Saturday, July 27 at the age of 89. Known around the world for his work in restorative dentistry, occlusion, and diagnosing and treating temporomandibular disorders, Dr. Dawson was widely thought of as one of the most influential clinicians and teachers in dental history.
Considered by some to the “the most famous dentist in the world,” Dr. Peter Dawson practiced restorative and prosthodontic dentistry for more than 50 years after graduating from Emory University School of Dentistry in 1954. He combined active practice with an extremely busy teaching/lecturing schedule at national and international meetings, as well as at several universities.
He founded the Dawson Academy for Advanced Dental Study in 1979, and he also developed a complete curriculum for advanced postgraduate study. According to the Dawson Academy, more than 40,000 dental professionals have learned to solve complex dental problems using the principles of occlusion that Dawson developed. Today, the Dawson Academy is a leading center for dental study, with a full curriculum of lectures and hands-on courses taught by a team of experts. Satellite Dawson Academies are now located in several states and many foreign countries.
“Pete Dawson’s clinical knowledge of occlusion and all aspects of restorative dentistry has directly or indirectly touched every dentist on the planet,” said Dr. John Cranham, clinical director of the Dawson Academy. “But for the dentists that really studied and spent time with him, it was his concepts of family, faith and life balance that changed our lives. He had the ability to inspire us to understand and spend time on the things that matter most, and to do so before we realized how important they were.”
Dr. Dawson authored five textbooks and hundreds of articles, including Functional Occlusion: From TMJ to Smile Design and The Complete Dentist. He was a leader in developing diagnostic and treatment protocols for TMJ disorders and orofacial pain. Because of this, he achieved recognition for his work and earned many accolades, including the ADA Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor given by the American Dental Association’s Board of Trustees.
“As Christian dentists, the ‘necessary ought’ we face doesn’t include just providing adequate care for our patients,” Dr. Dawson wrote in an article published in the spring 2012 edition of Today’s Christian Doctor. “Instead, our Christian faith upholds us to even
higher standards. Our Christian principles guide our practice, our professional ethics and our desire for a balanced life.
This passion for encouraging healthcare professionals to lead balanced lives that include a strong emphasis on Christian values was given exceptional fulfillment through a partnership with CMDA to expand the dental aspect of CMDA’s ministry. Among his many honors, he cited the invitation to serve as a trustee of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations as the most special. For the last eight years, Dr. Dawson proudly served as a member of CMDA’s Board of Trustees. He was integral in the development of CMDA’s Dental Ministries and events like the Emerging Leaders in Dentistry Symposium. Through his endowment, the Peter E. Dawson Chair of Dentistry was created, and his generous financial support helped start CMDA’s Dental Residency (+) program. CMDA’s 2012 President’s Heritage Award was presented to Dr. Dawson as a result of his continued focus on using his faith to influence the dental community.
“Pete had the greatest impact in markedly expanding our dental ministry,” said CEO Emeritus David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics). “I was so impressed with Pete’s passion for God, his wisdom and experience. Pete brought us a huge dental network of top Christian dentists, provided generous financial support and gave us wise advice. More than that, he became loving father figure to all he met. He profoundly impacted my life and that of many other CMDA leaders.”
Together with his wife Jodie, they raised four children and eight grandchildren. His legacy as a “Transformed Doctor, Transforming the World” continues on through his family and the extended family he built through the Dawson Academy and CMDA’s Dental Ministries.
“For many years, I’ve concentrated on sharing the clinical, technical and management concepts that are needed to build a successful practice. Through those years, I’ve met too many dentists who in spite of dedication and hard work, fall short of having the fulfillment and contentment they’d like to have…especially in regard to balancing their professional goals with a happy family life and a great marriage. I knew that a close relationship with the Lord had profoundly influenced every part of my life, including how I practiced and how I performed as a husband and as a father. I also knew that it was the reason for that ‘peace that is beyond all understanding.’”
—Peter E. Dawson, DDS