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Illegal Dentistry

Dental History Pictures
©Everett Collection/

As much as people don’t like the dentist nowadays, things used to be a lot worse!  Take a look at the pictures below to see how far dentistry has come in the past few centuries.

16 Dental History Pictures That Will Make You Love Your Dentist

A Jolly Man with a “Fixed” Missing Tooth

Dr. Shiffman Fixed My Teeth - Dental History

It’s hard to imagine living in an era where people consider their teeth fixed when they are missing.

Teething Trouble?  Give the Kid Some Cocaine & Alcohol

Cocaine Teething and Toothache Drops - Dental History

Many years ago, it was common to give a teething baby all sorts of concoctions to get them to calm down.  My favorite have to be these cocaine drops, followed by Mrs. Winslow’s teething syrup, which would now be illegal for those under 21 years of age!

Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup for Teething Children - Dental History

“Gather ’round, children.  Let’s look at the Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup advertisement again!”

Don’t want to get your baby drunk?  Here’s some natural teething remedies you can try.

Would You Like Your Wisdom Teeth Extracted?

Martyrdom of St. Apollonia - Dental History

This illustration, The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia, shows the torturous extraction of teeth.  I’m glad that this isn’t how my wisdom teeth were removed!

German Traveling Dentist

German Charlatan Dentist - Dental History

In the picture above, a German dental quack, who looks strangely like Captain Hook,  is holding a large tooth that he supposedly extracted from the little midget next to him.  If you look closely, you will see a necklace of extracted teeth hanging over the edge of the table.

His cute little assistant is mixing up a variety of powders and potions that this dentist claims will cure complications from kidney stones and pregnancy.

Traveling French Dentist & His Monkey

French Quack Dentist with Monkey - Dental History

This French dentist proudly displays a tooth that he recently extracted from the gentleman on the right and it would appear he suffered a great deal.

Perhaps as a marketing gimmick, this dentist has a monkey that imitates his every move!

Although your dentist probably wouldn’t extract a tooth without gloves, you should still evaluate your dentist’s infection control program.

18th Century Persian Dentist Tooth Extraction

Persian Dentist Extracting Tooth - Dental History

Here’s an 18th century Persian dentist engaging in the fine art of a gentle tooth extraction.  The gentleness reflects the subtitle of this picture, which was taken from a passage found in the Quran about the need to be kind to your fellow men.

Traveling Dentist in a Dutch Village

Traveling Dentist in Dutch Village - Dental History

I still can’t get over the fact that people used to gather and watch tooth extractions for entertainment.

A Surprifing Toothache Cure

A Surprifing Toothache Cure - Dental History

If this guy had lived in our day, I am willing to bet he’d be all over the TV on infomercials and all over the internet with affiliate websites peddling his “fmall letter” that would cure a toothache.  I can almost hear his voice pronouncing the letter s like the letter f.

A sufferer comes to him saying, “I come to you to get Relief for a moft violent Tooth-Ache.”  The swindler then responds, “My Letter, that fmells fo very pleafant, when delivered is your Relief.”

Interestingly, there are still people like him on the internet that push dangerous, risky, and unproven treatments for toothaches and gum disease.

Backbreaking Work for this Dental Assistant

Russian Dentist - Dental History

I guess they don’t make dental assistants like they used to!  I feel bad for all three, but probably the dentist the most for his poor fashion sense.  I promise, you’ll never sit in my dental chair and see me wearing pants like that!

An Athletic Italian Dentist

Italian Athletic Dentist Pulling Tooth - Dental History

I can’t believe that in 3 ½ years of dental school, my tuition still hasn’t covered a class covering athletic dental extractions.  Hopefully it’s coming up soon.

The next patient appears to be drinking some extra alcohol in anticipation of her extraction.

Curing a Toothache with Fire

Using Fire to Cure a Toothache - Dental History

A suffering patient bends over this brazier fueled by burning seeds.  The fumes from henbane seeds were believed to drive the worm out of the aching tooth.

Yeah, people used to believe that toothaches were caused by worms that burrowed into the tooth and caused pain.  Even if there were worms, it’s more likely that the henbane would’ve killed the person before it killed the worms, since it is now known to be a very toxic plant.

The Japanese Tooth Extraction: Kneeling Method

Japanese Dentist Kneeling to Extract Tooth - Dental History

I’m betting that she is handling the extractions so well because she knows that she’s got not two, but three black, wooden dentures ready for her when she’s done.

Arabic Dentist Cauterizing Dental Pulp With Acid

Arabic Dentist Cauterizing Dental Pulp - Dental History

Here’s an Arabic dentist injecting acid into the dental pulp of a patient.  He uses a protective syringe to keep the acid from burning his hands.

Not sure what dental pulp is?  It’s the nerve of the tooth – Learn more about the anatomy of a tooth.

The Tooth Drawer

Tooth Drawer - Dental History

This is the picture I featured in my article on tooth drawers not too long ago.  This elegantly dressed dentist advertises himself as the dentist to the Great Mogul.  He wanted everyone to know that even royalty subjected themselves to his charming, yet awful dental skills.

The Italian “Oral Surgeon” That Effortlessly Removes Jawbones

Italian Dentist Extracting Jaw - Dental History

I don’t know how people believed this one.  This Italian “oral surgeon” has just pretended to extract an animal’s jaw from his actor-patient.  The crowd stares in amazement, the way the surgeon looks at us through the picture easily tells us that he’s living a lie.

The main theme in a lot of these pictures is having a crowd admire the dentist’s work.  Now that we have YouTube, people have turned away from the dental office when they seek entertainment.


Hopefully these pictures from the history of dentistry will allow you to gain a greater appreciation for your current dentist.  There’s a lot to be grateful for when you think about dentists of today:

  • We don’t stand on you or tie you down to pull your teeth.
  • We don’t travel from town to town with deceitful publicity stunts.
  • We don’t prescribe medications that could cause serious harm to you or your children.
  • We use local anesthetic so you don’t feel the pain of dental work.
  • We don’t try to sell you questionable cures for your problems and base our treatment on scientific evidence.  Well, most of us do!
  • We don’t hold your head over a burning pot of flames to cure your toothache.
  • We can fix teeth, rather than simply extracting them.
  • We wear gloves and use sterile dental equipment.
  • Questions, comments, or concerns?  Please leave a comment in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

Crazy Dentist Illegal Dentist
©Igor Shootov/

Oral Answers LinksThere’s been a few interesting stories about dentists in the news over the past few weeks. Since I haven’t done an “OA Links” post lately, I decided to share them with you in this edition of Oral Answers Links.

A Fighting Dentist

Yesterday afternoon, a dentist near Daytona Beach, Florida was taken to jail for fighting with an 85 year old patient.  He had just made the elderly woman a removable partial denture and was adjusting it.

The woman was unhappy with the denture and took it out of her mouth and threw it at the dentist and demanded a refund.  The dentist had pretty quick reflexes and caught the denture, at which point the woman charged him and tried to grab the denture.  They played tug-of-war with the denture all the way down the hall and then the woman bit the dentist’s hand and tried to open the door to leave.

The dentist shut the door, not allowing the woman to leave.  She then jumped up on the receptionist’s desk to climb out of the window.  I don’t want to spoil the ending, but you can read the full article over at the Daytona Beach News-Journal to find out what happened.

UPDATE: Here’s another article with a picture of the denture in question.

An Elderly Dentist

At 90 years old, Dr. Paul Kincaid is the oldest practicing dentist in the state of Kansas.  He’s been practicing for over 66 years.  He said that he did retire one day, but then came back to work the next day.  He has an interesting story, and I really enjoyed reading it.  He obviously enjoys what he does, and I developed a lot of respect for him by reading the article.

One thing that stood out to me was that for only $3,000, he was able to set up his own dental practice over a shoe store.  If I could set up a practice for only $3,000, I might have the courage to do it right after graduation.  Nowadays, it would take several hundred thousand dollars to set up a dental practice.

Using the dentist license verification search that I posted a few months ago, I was able to track down Dr. Kincaid’s license and found that he was issued a license to practice dentistry on August 16, 1945 —nearly 66 years ago!

An Illegal Dentist

Illegal dentistry is becoming more popular in the United States during the recession.  This article describes an illegal dental clinic located in Mesquite, Texas.  It is located in a house in a residential area and has a neon “OPEN” sign.  Patients have reported that there are at least 18 illegal dental clinics set up in the state of Texas.

In this case, a dentist from Mexico came over the border and opened up shop.  Without any regulation or licensing, getting services from illegal dentists can be quite risky.  The article describes a man who they call Fred who wasted a lot of money and ended up with a lot more dental problems that now need to be addressed elsewhere.

Unfortunately, it seems to be difficult to shut down these illegal dental clinics.

Any Thoughts?

Do you have any thoughts, questions, or comments on the above stories?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!