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 In 1926, the 1st International Orthodontic Congress (IOC) was held in New York City. This was the first worldwide congress ever held by a dental specialty and was the brainchild of Dr. William C. Fisher, the president of the then-
Dr. William C. Fisher, President of the American Society of Orthodontists (ASO) and 1st IOC
called American Society of Orthodontists (ASO).  The ASO at that time boasted nearly 450 exclusively practicing orthodontists as members and was celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of its founding in 1901. The component societies of the 1st IOC consisted of 15 orthodontic societies including ten societies from the United States and five societies from Europe.  The concept of an International Congress had begun, but the formation of the world organization was not to come for over 50 years.


The 2nd IOC was held in London in 1931 under the presidency of Dr. J. H. Badcock of the European Orthodontic Society (EOS) and the then-called British Society for the Study of Orthodontics (B.S.S.O.) 


Prof. J. H. Badcock of the
United Kingdom, President
of the 2nd IOC

Both the 1st IOC and 2nd IOC were outstanding successes and discussions following both successful events led to planning for a 3rd IOC to be held in Montreal, Canada, in 1938.  However, the combination of world economic conditions and the untimely death of Dr. Fisher, led to a cancellation of those plans. World events that followed further delayed subsequent worldwide meetings until, finally the 3rd IOC was organized and held in London in 1973.


The 3rd IOC was sponsored by the EOS and the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) and had  Dr. William

B.F. (Tod) Dewel of AAO,VP of the 3rd IOC (left) and William J. Tulley of EOS, President of the 3rd IOC (right)
J. Tulley of the EOS as president and Dr. B.F. (Tod) Dewel of the AAO as vice-president.  The congress was a huge professional and artistic success although, again, world events caused a number of registration cancellations at the last minute making the financial planning burdensome for both the EOS and the AAO.  According to Dr. Dewel, the organizers first began talking about a world organization in orthodontics during the 3rd IOC, but little did they know that it would actually not come into being for another twenty-two years until 1995 with the organization of the World Federation of Orthodontists.


Resurrection of the idea of a world organization can be traced to a Board of Directors meeting in

1989 of the Midwestern Society of Orthodontists (a constituent society of the AAO) when Dr. John Byrne, a Chicago, Illinois, orthodontist, wondered why it had been such a long time since an international orthodontic congress had been held. Further discussion resulted in a resolution from the Midwestern Society (MSO) to the House of Delegates of the AAO requesting that the AAO designate its annual session in 1995 as the 4th IOC. The MSO recognized that this would then happen during the presidential year of Dr. William H. DeKock, a fellow MSO member.  The House of Delegates of the AAO accepted the concept and idea and the Board of Trustees assigned the responsibility of organizing the 4th IOC to Dr. DeKock.


Dr. DeKock recognized immediately that in order for the 4th IOC to be successful, there had to be a mechanism to bring together orthodontic societies from around the world whereby they could all eventually participate and become stakeholders in the International Orthodontic Congress. Dr. DeKock appointed Dr. Lee W. Graber as General Chairman and Drs. William Thompson and Donald Woodside as program chairmen of the 95th annual meeting of the AAO in San Francisco. An international advisory committee from four different continents was also appointed.


Dr. DeKock checked other dental specialty organizations to see if they were involved with a world organization.  One specialty, oral surgery, did have an international organization that had been organized in Denmark several years earlier, although they did not have the long history of international congress involvement unique to orthodontics.  Investigation of the oral surgery international organization, however, led Dr. DeKock to develop and author the first draft of the bylaws of the World Federation of Orthodontists (WFO). The bylaws he drafted were based on the strengths of the already existing national orthodontic societies throughout the world. The draft bylaws also took into consideration the unique culture of the orthodontic specialty and its participating orthodontists.  Dr. DeKock then placed the draft of the WFO Bylaws before the Board of Trustees of the AAO and actively solicited their support of the new organization.


The AAO Board of Trustees recognized that for many years there had been problems with its International Membership category in their attempt to verify the qualifications of prospective members outside of the United States and Canada.  The idea that a World Federation of Orthodontists could be organized and in the process, act as an accrediting body for orthodontic specialists throughout the world, was enthusiastically supported by the Board of Trustees both financially and philosophically.


The concept that was developed for the WFO was based on the fact that the national and regional orthodontic societies throughout the world would know who their orthodontic specialist members were and would be willing to validate that credential in order for the individual to become a Fellow of the World Federation of Orthodontists. There was one problem, however, facing Dr. DeKock. There was no recognized list of orthodontic societies in the world.  So, Dr. DeKock contacted the Federation Dentaire Internationale (FDI) and asked them to provide him with a list of dental societies throughout the world.  These dental societies were contacted and asked to provide the names and addresses of the orthodontic societies in their respective countries.  Dr. DeKock then contacted the orthodontic societies one by one and faxed to them a copy of the draft WFO bylaws he had prepared. He asked if they would join with the AAO in San Francisco in 1995 to form the World Federation of Orthodontists.  Sixty-eight national and regional orthodontic societies from sixty-two countries joined with the AAO to sign the charter of the WFO at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco on May 15, 1995.  The Herbst Theatre had been the site, fifty years earlier when the United Nations charter was signed in 1945 following World War II.

4th IOC Charter signing Oaktstone 2014 AJODOaug.pdfceremony, San Francisco 1995


The Bylaws of the World Federation of Orthodontists (WFO)  signed by the charter organizations that day in San Francisco stated that the purpose of the WFO would be to advance the art and science of orthodontics throughout the world. The Bylaws further went on to list seven objectives of the new orthodontic organization:

·          Encourage high standards in orthodontics throughout the world ;

·          Encourage and assist in the formation of national associations and societies of orthodontists when requested;

·         Encourage and assist in the formation of national and regional certifying boards in the field of orthodontics when requested;

·         Promote orthodontic research;

·         Disseminate scientific information;

·         Promote desirable standards of training and certification for orthodontists

·         Organize the International Orthodontic Congress to be held at least every five years


The WFO Bylaws provided for two major governing bodies to develop policies and lead the WFO.  They were the Council of the World Federation of Orthodontists which consisted of representatives from all of the national and regional societies that signed the WFO Charter and subsequently affiliated with the WFO.  The WFO Council meets once every five years during the International Orthodontic Congress and its members are appointed by each affiliated society.  The WFO Council elects a 10-member WFO Executive Committee which develops policies and leads the WFO in the interim between each IOC.  The WFO Executive Committee elects the president and vice-president of the WFO and appoints the Secretary-General who administers the home office of the WFO which is in St.Louis, Missouri, USA. The WFO is financed by dues from fellows (members), donations, affiliation fees (from affiliate organizations), any profits from meetings of the IOC, grants, gifts and bequests.


The initial Executive Committee of the WFO, selected in San Francisco, consisted of the following members:


·         Athanasios E. Athanasiou of Greece

·         Jae Chan Kim of Korea

·         Takayuki Kuroda of Japan

·         Robert Max of New Zealand

·         Per Rygh of Norway

·         Lee W. Graber of the United States who was selected as vice-president

·         William H. DeKock of the United States who was selected as president


In 2000, at the 5th IOC, the WFO Council revised the WFO Bylaws to expand the WFO Executive Committee so it represents the six major regions of the world and includes a representative of the affiliate society that is selected by the WFO Executive Committee to co-sponsor the next IOC.

Initially, the WFO Executive Committee focused the WFO and its resources towards the importance of recognizing the orthodontic specialist in every corner of the globe as an important provider of orthodontic care.  Several WFO affiliate organizations recognize different levels of the providers of orthodontic care, but in order for an orthodontic organization to be affiliated with the WFO its bylaws must provide a specific membership category for the “orthodontic specialist” or “orthodontist.” Only an orthodontic specialist is eligible to become a WFO Fellow (member).  This ensures that all WFO fellows are recognized in their country as having had additional training so as to be entitled to use the term “orthodontist” or “orthodontic specialist.” Each WFO affiliate president certifies this specialty status when he or she signs the membership application of his or her organization’s member to become a WFO Fellow.


A WFO Fellow receives the WFO Gazette twice yearly mailed to an office or home as a benefit of membership in the WFO in addition to receiving discounted registration fees to the IOC and several annual meetings of WFO affiliates. A WFO Fellow may also display the WFO certificate of membership and the WFO pin.  The WFO website, www.wfo.org  provides a directory of its membership so that anyone searching for an orthodontist can be assured that an orthodontist listed in the directory has the necessary training and experience to provide high quality orthodontic care.


Two additional documents are:

·         WFO Educational Guidelines

·         WFO Guidelines for the Establishment of New National and Regional Orthodontic Certification Boards.


The WFO Educational Guidelines were developed after an extensive review of orthodontic educational programs around the world.  This review was completed by a distinguished academic task force composed of academicians from several continents and led by former WFO president, Prof. A.E. Athanasiou, Chairman of the Orthodontic Department at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.  The Guidelines are intended as a guide to those institutions that would seek to develop new programs and for those who would wish to have a standard against which to measure their current offering. The guidelines provide specific direction for university recognized quality orthodontic specialty training.


The WFO Guidelines for orthodontic certification boards were developed after two very successful symposiums held during the 6th IOC in Paris, France in 2005 and the 7th IOC held in Sydney, Australia, in February, 2010.  The guidelines were developed by a committee of appointed representatives of 16 orthodontic certifying boards in response to many questions and solutions posed during the symposiums. Further development was led by current WFO president, Prof. Roberto Justus, Director of Research, Graduate Department of Orthodontics, Intercontinental University, Mexico City, Mexico.  It is anticipated that the guidelines may encourage the establishment of new certifying boards in orthodontics.  The WFO hopes that existing certifying boards may wish to compare their current guidelines and procedures to those recommended by the WFO, modifying them accordingly, if they find that their standards would be improved.

Since its formation in 1995, the WFO has joined together with the AAO in 2000, the Societe Francaise d’Orthopedie Dento-Faciale (S.F.O.D.F.) and Syndicate des Specialistes Francais en Orthopedie Dento-Faciale (S.S.F.O.D.F.) in 2005, and the Australian Society of Orthodontists in 2010  and the British Orthodontic Society in 2015 to sponsor the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th IOCs in a very successful manner.  Attendance at these congresses has been excellent and the communication of new ideas and technologies in orthodontics has been superb.  The camaraderie and discussion among colleagues reached new heights and is fostering orthodontic development at a very rapid pace.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers of the 9th International Orthodontic Congress (IOC) transformed the meeting that had been planned in Yokohama to a virtual event that took place October 4-6, 2020, when the live meeting had been expected to occur. The Virtual 9th IOC was a successful celebration of the 25 years of the WFO, attracting participants from all over the world.
Planning for the 10th IOC, that will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2025, is now well underway. South America will be hosting an IOC for the first time and organizers promise a unique experience.