In the seventies, the advertising slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby,” became a popular catchphrase. And though we don’t condone the unhealthiness of the company’s product (cigarettes), we could apply that phrase to the practice of dentistry. We have indeed come a long way from the crude beginnings of dentistry. As a dentist office that values the practice of gentle dentistry, we thought we’d present some interesting historical facts in some of our Lifetime Family Dental blog posts. When you read these facts, we’re rather confident you’ll be able to say along with us, “Dentistry . . . ‘you’ve come a long way, baby!’”
Can You Guess This Famous Historical Dentist?
We won’t mention his name until later in the blog post, so if you’d like to know the name of our mystery dentist right away, you’ll have to jump down and read the later paragraphs of this post. If you want to figure it out as you go, you might not want to click on any links right now, since they will reveal the name of the person. Following are some interesting facts about our historical dentist.
Dentistry wasn’t his only skill, nor was it his only trade. He followed in the footsteps of his father as a silversmith, which was helpful for his dentistry skills. At the time, dentures were made by hand out of materials like metal (e.g., gold, silver, and iron), using animal and human teeth or ivory or porcelain and other such mediums.
Our mystery person was mentioned in an ad in 1768 in the Boston Gazette as being able to: “fix [teeth] as well as any surgeon dentist who ever came from London, he fixes them in such a manner that they are not only an ornament but of real use in speaking and eating.” It’s good to know people could actually eat with the dentures he made! And now you know the date and the location of our unnamed dentist.
He was one of the first known persons in America’s history who practiced (unknowingly) forensic dentistry. As it happened, he’d created a metal wire bridge for Major General Joseph Warren, who was later killed in the famous Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary War. Upon his death, Warren was stripped of his uniform and tossed into a mass grave with other soldiers. Ten months later his family wanted to find his remains and give him a proper burial in his own grave. But since Major Warren had no uniform, it was impossible to distinguish his body from the other buried soldiers. Since dentures and bridges of that era were created by hand and were marked with the creator’s distinctive touches, the idea came about to ask the man who had made Warren’s wire bridge whether he could identify the Major’s body. The National Museum of Health and Medicine writes that this man’s “. . . confirmation of General Warren’s identity was the first instance in this country of an identification of a military service member using dental remains.”
A Few More Interesting Facts About Our Historical Dentist
Before we name him, here are a few more interesting clues about our dentist of history:
—He was known as an artist for his talented copper engravings used to create book covers, menus, and even political cartoons.
—He’s known for a famous quote that he never said.
—He was court-martialed, though the case was later dismissed.
—As a successful businessman (after the war), he fashioned more than 900 church bells.
—He fathered 16 children.
Have you figured out his identity?
Ready for the unveiling? Our historical dentist is none other than . . . PAUL REVERE! You can read all about his famous life in this link.
We hope we gave you a fun ride, though not so fun as Paul Revere’s historic ride on April 18, 1775, on a borrowed horse (and he did not shout, “The British are coming!”). Thankfully, dentistry has come a long way from using animal teeth and metal in reconstructive and cosmetic dentistry. At Lifetime Family Dental, our goal is gentle dentistry, and our tools of the trade are the latest in dental technology and practice. We want to take care of your dental needs with the utmost of care and attentiveness, because we want your smile to last for a lifetime. And if you enjoyed this blog post, stay tuned for more future blog posts on other fascinating facts about dental history.
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (4/20/2018) Rebecca Chatfield (Flickr)