I wish there were no such things as Teeth in the World; they are nothing but plagues to one, and I dare say that People might easily invent something to eat with instead of them. —Catherine, or the Bower
… convinced that much of the evil lay in her gum, I persuaded her to attack the disorder there. She has accordingly had three teeth drawn, and is decidedly better, but her nerves are a good deal deranged … Sanditon
I just lost another tooth today. Down to 10 on the bottom and 3 on top. I was shaken, but not deranged. Why? I kept Austen in mind. I made an appointment for a cleaning because I knew a middle tooth on the bottom (#24) was loose and had had it at long last (very grey where my tooth sat in my gum). The dentist took x-rays and as usual (remember I’m 66 and it’s been every child a quarter of a mouth), wanted to take 2 more (#s 23 & 25). The attitude of dentist’s towards the old person’s teeth needs improvement. They think what they offer will be better. (Doctor to patient: Let us take out those adenoids now; they are only going to give you trouble later.) But while I didn’t need Austen’s Susan to direct my conduct, to remember her amused me. I said I would stop at one today as drawing three would “a great deal derange my nerves.”
Did you know rich people paid poor people and some masters and mistresses pressured their servants into having their teeth pulled so they could have them put in their mouths. Eighteenth-Century Life 28.1 (2004) 21-68. That may be what’s happening to the black man sitting on the couch. The white woman hovering over him might be pressuring him to go ahead.
Less funnily and rightly sceptical: I love the scepticism of this.
From letters 87 and 88, Wed-Thurs, 15-16 Sept 1813
Going to Mr Spence’s was a sad Business & cost us many tears, unluckily we were obliged to go a 2d time before he could do more than just look: — we went I at 1/2 past 12 and afterwards at 3. Papa went with us each time — &, alas! we are to go again to-morrow. Lizzy is not finished yet. There have been no Teeth taken out however, nor will as I believe, but he finds hers in a very bad state, & seems to think ill of their Durableness. — They have been all cleaned, hers fled, and are to be filed again. There is a very sad hole between two of her front Teeth.
The poor girls and their teeth! I have not mentioned them yet, but we were a whole hour at Spence’s, & Lizzy’s were filed & lamented over again & poor Marianne had two taken out after all, the two just beyond the Eye teeth, to make room for those in front. –- When her doom was fixed, Fanny Lizzy & I walked into the next room, where we heard each of the two sharp hasty Screams —- Fanny’s teeth were cleaned too-& pretty as they are, Spence found something to do to them, putting in gold & talking gravely —- & making a considerable point of seeing her again before winter; —- he had before urged the expediency of Lizzy & Marianne’s being brought to Town, in the course of a couple of Months to be farther examined, & continued to the last to press for their all coming to him. —- My Brother would not absolutely promise. —- The little girls teeth I can suppose in a critical state, but I think he must be a Lover of Teeth & Money & Mischeif to parade about Fannys. –- I would not have had him look at mine for a shilling a tooth & double it. -– It was a disagreable hour
Today’s dentists don’t value biological teeth the way they ought to (they are ever willing to file them down, re-color them, cap them) because they make money off of cosmetics and making substitute magazine-looking teeth. Orthodonists fleece (complicit I agree) parents. They will pull a perfectly healthy tooth in order to make a mouth “look right” in child.
When Austen went to the dentist, she said she would not let him near her for a shilling a tooth. Today cost me $163 for everything (that’s with a reduction because she is a dentist associated with Kaiser). I remember when I used to pay $5.00 for a pull from a dentist in Brooklyn in the early 1970s. He did all the dentist did insofar as “extraction” (her term) is concerned.
Don’t get me wrong. I do like my dentist. She is not a disagreeable woman, and she is a Kaiser Dentist so I was not charged $700 (which is the sort of price I was paying in the 1990s when I had to go privately). Her dental hygienist who deep-cleans my teeth (ouch!) works as gently as he can, means very well. Both are there of course for the money. What they really wanted to do when I showed up was extract all my teeth, do “deep scaling,” put in implants, bridges for (with insurances) minimum for me of an estimated $20,000. What I have are modern partial dentures which stay in through the way the plastic puts pressure on my gums: $2000.
Oh the blood and pain people endure to look “middle class,” i.e., socially acceptable today. And gentle reader, remember implants don’t always “take.”
I’ll go one better than Austen: you couldn’t pay me to allow them to do what they wanted to. Or you’d have to pay me huge sums.
You will say I am anachronistic. Jane Austen would not feel today about dentistry the way I do. I am not so sure.