Like Pulling Teeth

Like Pulling Teeth


Any time my dad wants to express that something is really, really hard to accomplish, he always uses the expression, “It’s like pulling teeth to…” 

The only teeth I’ve ever had pulled are my baby teeth and some teeth pulled as part of my orthodontics work when I was a teenager.  I even still have all my wisdom teeth, in place and in use.  (Probably the only wisdom that I have.)  I do know that it’s like pulling teeth to pay all the “Mouth Bills” a large family has though. 

I’ve always done the bare minimum on my own dental care so I could pay for the rest of my family’s needs.  So when I go to the dentist, I always expect (and get) a long lecture about how this tooth and that tooth need crowns.  I have always politely told them to just repair it with a filling and I’ll get the crown latter.  Well it’s now much, much later and I have one molar that has been taunting me for all those dentists with, “I told you so, I told you so.” 

Fortunately, my Beautiful Wife’s new dental insurance is much better than mine was, I so this week I finally got that long awaited crown on my tender tooth.  And now that my bite feels as good as my bark again, I wonder how they must have gotten along in yesteryear.

My family history tells me a little bit about it.  My 2 greats grandpa, Samuel Webster, had dental forceps.  Folks came from the area to have him pull their teeth.  Now Samuel was a coal miner turned farmer, not a dentist.  Back in the late 1800’s when he was pulling teeth, dental forceps were a relatively new innovation.  I’ve seen pictures of the dental pelican which preceded the dental key.  The sight of either of these tooth extraction tools would have inspired me to live with the tender tooth a lot longer.  These must have been the tools that famed American, Paul Revere, used when he advertised as a dentist back in 1768. 

And then there are the poor folks who had no one to pull the bad tooth at all.  I read one such story of a pioneer family crossing the plains in 1857.  A twelve year old boy had a tooth ache and there was nothing he could do about it but suffer.  At least that’s what everyone told him.  Necessity is a great motivator. And this boy was motivated to get that bad tooth out. 

He decided to pack the large hole in the tooth with gunpowder.  As he was doing it, his father told him, “You had better not do it.  No good can come from it.”  But the painful tooth ache was making him crazy.  Crazy enough to actually light the powder in his mouth.  His family stood and watched in shock as his mouth lit up like a muzzle loader.  The decayed tooth popped out and all was well on the trail once again.

What my ancestors wouldn’t have given to have the fine dental care that I take for granted.  My mouth is happy again I didn’t even have to lose the tooth.  But then again, if my ancestors heard how much my repaired tooth costs, they would probably happily resort to gun powder and tools that look like pelican beaks.