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House Dentist: 1924

House Dentist: 1924

Washington, D.C., circa 1924. "Rep. Roy O. Woodruff." The Michigan Republican, first elected as a Progressive, served 17 terms in Congress and was also a practicing dentist. National Photo Co. Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Years ago a family friend

Years ago a family friend would tell us stories about his father's barbershop in the early 1900s. Pender was in rural Fairfax Co, Va. He was also known as the tooth puller. One stop shopping. Got whiskey?

"Marathon Man"

"Yes! It is safe. It is very safe. It couldn't be any safer." "Ooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww!"

White knuckles

I've been a licensed nail technician for 30 years, and we use dental drills in our profession. Modern ones run about 30,000 rpm's and are smooth as silk, but those old belt driven models are like a semi truck with four flats barreling down a cobblestone alley. We had to take them apart every week to clean and lubricate the handpiece as well. What a pain, in more ways than one!

Like pulling teeth

I'll bet if the good doctor were still practicing today, he'd be using the same equipment. Dentists are about the most tight-fisted people I know.


Once when I was 9 year old kid I had broken a front tooth fooling around and went to a dentist with equipment like this in the early 60's in Spain. I'll always remember. Luckily he only had to smooth the broken tooth with the foot powered drill. I was terrified but in the end it didn't hurt and he was very careful.

They did the best they could

But it still looks like a torture chamber!


Imagine that huge chandelier being lowered over your gaping mouth! Makes me wince.

The Holemaker

My father had a dentist's drill the dead spit of this one, which he used for fine gunsmithing work. I used to use it a little myself, for making bullet and shrapnel holes in my WWII aircraft models.

Life Imitates Art

And vice-versa. Certain movie-like vibe here. I was thinking "Boys From Brazil," but decided it's more "Brazil." Wonder if Terry Gilliam had seen this photo?

["Marathon Man." - Dave]

Steampunk Dentistry

Most all of the equipment, including the overhanging light, has such a Steampunk flavor about it. I love the solid, durable look of the fixtures, but I'm so glad for the modern fixtures and procedures of today!

One word


Is it safe?

I can't help but picture Laurence Olivier asking Dustin Hoffman that very question in "The Marathon Man"

Dental chandelier

My stepdad sold dental equipment, and we had plenty of old dental lamps out in the storage shed. I never saw anything like this! The ones I have always seen were a built with a single shielded bulb and a focused reflector for a concentrated beam.

30 rpm

on a good day was about what that kind of drill would do. But the dentist would make up in pressure what he didn't have in drill speed. Don't ask me how I know.

Better than kissing babies

So, George, I can count on your vote this time -- right?

The drill!

It's very interesting to see how similar the basic dental chair is to today's. The biggest difference as far as I'm concerned is the drill. The addition of the high speed compressed air driven drill has improved the whole experience of getting your teeth fixed dramatically.

If you've ever had your jaw drilled by one of those belt driven monsters, you'll never forget it. Like an earthquake in your head.

Drill Baby Drill!

My gosh, that looks mighty painful!

Great Expectorations

I had an uncle who became a dentist after the Second World War. His office and equipment looked much like this. When I was a kid, he used to joke around with the nephews & nieces whenever we were in the chair. At the end of every visit he would give us a cup of water and tell us to "rinse it out and spit on the floor."

When you're 6 years old and your uncle tells you to spit on the floor, you do what you're told. And I did.

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