Adams School of Dentistry

The idea of dental education at UNC was discussed as early as 1921. Medical professionals around the state continued to advocate for a school of dentistry, successfully lobbying university administrators, who agreed to add the new program to the campus at Chapel Hill. In 1949 the North Carolina state legislature voted unanimously to establish and fund a school of dentistry at UNC. John Brauer, dean of the dental school at the University of Southern California, was hired to start the new program at Carolina. He worked quickly: hired in January, he developed a curriculum and hired faculty, and the School of Dentistry began admitting students by the fall 1950 term. The first classes were held in temporary Quonset huts on campus while a permanent home was being built (it would be completed in 1952).

Two early decisions have helped ensure the long-term success of UNC's dental school. Having faculty work as practicing dentists began early in the school's history. This decision was made in part to help attract talented practitioners to teach in the school but was also used to help supplement faculty salaries. The Dental Foundation of North Carolina was also established early in the history of the school. This privately supported endowment is used to fund scholarships, research, and faculty support.
The School of Dentistry grew rapidly, both in size and in reputation. It expanded with a research center in 1967 and dedicated a new building (now named Brauer Hall) in 1969. By 1973 one survey named the UNC—Chapel Hill School of Dentistry the top program in the country. The school added a Ph.D. program in 1995 and expanded facilities for research, teaching, and patient care, with the addition of Tarrson Hall in 2007 and the Koury Oral Health Sciences Building in 2002. In 2019, following a major gift from the estate of former Durham dentist Claude Adams III, the name of the school was formally changed to the Claude A. Adams Jr. and Grace Phillips Adams School of Dentistry in honor of Dr. Adams's parents.

One of the most tragic events in campus history occurred in 2015 when UNC—Chapel Hill dental students Deah Shaddy Barakat and Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha were murdered in their off-campus apartment. (North Carolina State University student Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha was also killed.) To celebrate the lives of these students and honor their commitment to service, students in the School of Dentistry organized an annual day of community service called DEAH (Directing Efforts and Honoring Deah and Yusor) Day.