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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Dentalist: 1936

The Dentalist: 1936

Jan. 24, 1936. Washington, D.C. "NO CAPTION (dentist)." Feel free to improvise your own dialogue. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Brain Quake

Oh Jeez! I can remember those drills too and that low speed drill grinding on a tooth that sent tremors bouncing all through your skull from ear to ear. Then there was the shock to the nerves in your teeth that was like a metal fork touching a filling. Oh the aggy-own-ny.

Massive understatement dept.

My favorite: "Okay, you're going to feel a little pinch..."

[For me it was "Just once more... " -tterrace]

Spit Bowl

We saw one of those swirly spit bowls in a flea market a few years ago and I ask my 30 something year old Daughter what she thought it was. Her guess was some sort of Baptismal Font....

Low Speed Dry Drills

I favored unsympatheic dentists, as in this 1960 exchange

Me: That hurts.

Him: Damn right.

The water cooled drills that then came in took all the fun out of it.


The patient is draped in a long gown to protect her nice dress from the blood and gore. Unlike many dentists today who wear scrubs, the doctor has a smart looking smock.

Regarding the comment below about hygene, I had an interesting conversation with my dentist. His father started the practise in gloves, mask, etc. he said his father handled all the money, made the appointments while working on his patients. At the end of the day would take his used drill bits and other tools, throw them into a bucket of alcohol, come back the next day and dry them and put them back in the draw.

And no one got seriously got ill.

I was a teenage anti-dentite

He reminds me of my childhood dentist, who (in the 1960s) had been practicing (and using the same equipment) since the 1930s. He had three chairs, so he'd run back and forth between my siblings and me without so much as wiping his hands on his smock. He also didn't believe in Novocaine, so getting a filling was a white-knuckle experience. When I was around 14 I refused to go back to him, and it was quite a few years before I visited a dentist again.

Spring-cable-driven, low-speed drill

Those things were a terror, with an odd thrumming sensation that really got to the nerves. And all in the name of dental hygiene.

Trifacial Nerve Chart

For the benefit of kids who aren't already totally petrified when they enter the room.

Quite the Predicament

Your teeth are fine, but your gums have to go.

Bare-handed Dentistry

I remember those days well, and it wasn't 1936. Even into the 1960s, dentistry left a lot to be desired in the hygiene category; notice the bare hands of the dentist (with the exception of the dirty thumb and bacteria infested college ring), no face mask and lack of eye protection.

According to the diagram

My wall chart says your teeth are in here. Let's see, shall we?

Don't Let My Coat Fool You

Dentist, butcher, whatever. They called me in to cover for Dr. M.

Thumbs up

I'll wash my hands later when I finish cleaning the office baseboards.

Open wide

This won't hurt
Let me get my needle
Were did I put those pliers?
You're going to need dentures
You do know they sell toothbrushes?

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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