06 March 2022

The Vacudent Revolutionized Modern Dentistry

Vacudent Tempo Chair, advertising postcard, ca 1970s

Happy National Dentist’s Day and Women’s History Month!

This is an advertising postcard for the Vacudent dental chair ca. 1970s when the company was located at 471 W 500 South SLC.

The Vacudent was invented in the early 1950s by SLC dentist Dr. Elbert O. Thompson (1910-2003) who needed a way to alleviate his back pain from the way dentistry was previously performed. The Vacudent was the first reclining chair for dentistry that also included a suction device to remove fluids and debris from the patient’s mouth. He also created a low stool he modified from a beauty parlor chair which allowed him to sit while performing his dental procedures.

All combined, this system of dentistry is now the modern standard in dental offices. Compare this to when Dr. Thompson took his board certification at the old Utah State Prison (where Sugar House Park is now) in which he was supplied a large fruit jar as a spittoon and expected to work in dark conditions with little comfort paid to either the dentist or the patient.

The Vacudent was manufactured in SLC and sold internationally. Dr. Thompson’s friend and business partner, Louis N. Bagley founded the Vacudent Manufacturing Company in 1952 and initially started manufacturing in a chicken coop. Throughout the next few decades, the Vacudent Co moved from one facility to another, each being bigger than the last.

When Lou Bagley died in 1963 his widow Frances S. Bagley took over as president of the company, which continued to thrive. By 1973 the company was producing 15 models of dentist chairs and accessories, 10 models of stools, dental drill accessories, and suction equipment. Frances Bagley died in 1979 of cancer.

Frances S. Bagley, president of Vacudent Manufacturing Co 1960s-1970s

The Vacudent company remained a SLC small business with international sales through part of the 1980s. In 1984 the Vacudent Manufacturing Co was voluntarily dissolved.

  • Deseret News Sept 19 1964
  • Deseret News Sept 29 1973
  • Deseret News Aug 27 1964
  • The Neighbor April 3 1963
  • Salt Lake Tribune Jan 12 1964
  • Salt Lake Tribune Jun 27 1979
  • Oral History Elbert O Thompson RL478 No8 University of Michigan School of Dentistry, on YouTube https://youtu.be/9KH4rH6CIZ4

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