EARLY DENTISTRY IN NORTH
By Dr. Earl O. McKinley
June 9, 1986; Notes based on a presentation to the North
Manchester Historical Society
Source: CFH Files
…I would like to take this opportunity
to thank Flossie Damron for the notes that she gathered for
me on the history of dentistry in North Manchester and a lot
of these she got from Dr. Bunker.
…Some of the very first people to be
what later were to become the dentists were the barber
surgeons which they also treated about anything that came
along. In fact there was no requirement clear up until the
1850s for anyone who wanted to be in the curing arts. There
was no legislation, there were no laws. Anyone who wanted to
hang out a shingle could. And, it was – all the schooling
was done by apprenticeship. What today we know of as dental
assistant used to be dental apprentice. It was usually
someone wanting to become a dentist.
…in 1879 was the first dental school
formed in Indiana – in Indianapolis. From about 1879 to 1925
the dental school moved five times. At one time it was even
in with school of mortuary, in Indianapolis. Their first
class had 6 students and the enrollment was $90 for the
year. Two of those people were considered advanced students
because they had worked for another dentist for a year. In
1925 the school was taken over by Indiana University. …by
1933 they built the original part of Indiana University
School of Dentistry, which is still on Michigan Street.
…Flossie went through and researched a
lot of the [local] papers. She found some of these
advertisements. In 1890 there was a large ad in our local
paper that said: “Dr. D.O. Fruth, Specialist in Chronic
Diseases of the eyes, ears, by the request of many friends
and patients decided to visit North Manchester Thursday,
February, 1890. Consultation, free exams, confidential.
Grimes Hotel, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. 1 day only.”
March 7, 1870. Grimes House. Dr. Wa-ke-mud,
Indian Dentist, 1 day only, Can cure anything.
Miscellaneous: June 26, 1882. William
Holbrook, Dentist, Call on him for the best work, lowest
Dr. Lambert of Goshen made a
professional visit to J. Oppenheim this city last Tuesday.
On the front page, January 16, 1890,
Bill Shafer, DDS guarantees fillings for five years. Uses
first class material, fine gold, artificial teeth, from one
to the entire set. Guarantees them. Office over Jennings
Thursday, January 5, 1899, there was an
ad in the paper. Dr. M.O. Lowell, Diseases of the eyes,
ears, nose and throat. Dr. L.W. Jordan, family practice, day
and night, Office, residence west of the Post Office.
Under local news, Dr. Ginther, now
comfortably located in his office on Walnut Street, 333 one
Dr. Winger, Wednesday, March 29th,
1899, Sheller Hotel. All medical services free until cured.
At that time there were still a lot of
dentists that would travel around and would do that. Von
Tate gave me a coin once and I lost it. I had it in a safe,
and I don’t know what happened to it, but it was a coin that
was placed in taverns – it was a dollar off for dental work.
Now I don’t know how the dentists worked it then, but if I
were doing it now I’d just add a dollar on and take a dollar
Flossie also found the following ad
from Dr. Bunker. These are on dentists who maintained
private offices on permanent basis in North Manchester.
First of all, her husband Bill Damron, practiced dentistry
in North Manchester for 49 years which was a record for
Manchester. He’s the longest practicing dentist in North
In 1925, Dr. Clarence Rezer, North
Manchester. He was a very talented man, Dr. Bunker said.
There was a Dr. G.E. Wright, and I know that this was Eldon
Wright’s father. His patients used to bring him vegetables
and poultry. One day in the post office a patient presented
him with a big fat rooster. The rooster escaped and ran
around the post office and defecated all over the floor. I
guess that really did happen – they had quite a clamor in
town that day.
Dr. Hornaday practiced dentistry in
North Manchester from 1893 until 1968, and I do know that is
where Bill Gordon began his original practice, because I
helped Bill move some material into the office. Dr. Kraning
had the first X-Ray machine in town. He helped Dr. Bunker.
They took a lot of x-rays together and he helped her set
broken bones. Dr. Forrest Sheller, son of Charles Sheller,
who owned the grocery store in North Manchester. He
practiced in Washington, D.C. and then went to Culver
Indiana. Flossie said her husband (Bill Damron) slept in a
room above the grocery store until his office was finished,
so he could save money.
Dr. Hornaday had quite a practice. Two
years prior to Dr. Gordon’s coming to North Manchester, then
I came to town after Dr. Gordon came to town. She doesn’t
have anything in here about Dr. Smith. I do know Dr. Smith
practiced here for two or three years, then moved away, then
came back again and practiced. I believe Dr. Smith didn’t
leave until 1972 or 1973.
Dr. Bunker told me an old folk tale
called the Timely Dentist. It happened in a town there
was an itinerant dentist that would come into town and
take impressions for false teeth and return in about
three weeks with the patients’ teeth. Anyway, he stayed
at the hotel and one day hearing sobbing a woman was
just crying like her heart would break, so he
began to look around and found the chamber maid.
He inquired what was wrong and if he could help. She
told him that she had lost her two front teeth and was
going to lose her job because she couldn’t hold the
pillow cases. So he felt sorry for her and fixed her
I will be glad to answer any question
that you have – to the best of my ability.
Question: How about braces?
Braces didn’t come into being until
about the 1920s. That was the first that dentists were
trained as orthodontists in dental school. It was really not
until about 1945 when they began to have good results. In
the beginning they were using round wire and the only thing
they could do with teeth with round wire was to tip teeth.
To apply force to a tooth that was just a tipping action,
and teeth which have been tipped tend to relapse or go back.
In about 1945 they had a lot of engineers involved, and they
came up with what they called the edgewise technique which
uses square wires and then they can not only tip a tooth but
bodily move a tooth through bone. So they can actually move
teeth around in the jaws with the square wires which is the
technique that most orthodontists use today and they have
very good results. An interesting sideline to that is that
there are more people today who have crooked teeth and in
the evolution of man our skull is getting bigger up here
because we use our brain but our foreface is becoming
smaller here and our jaw size is becoming smaller. There is
no explanation why the teeth are staying the same size as
teeth were 2,000 years ago. Teeth aren’t getting smaller,
but our jaws are, so there’s not enough room for teeth.
About 85% of the cases that the orthodontist treats are
because of not enough space for the size of the tooth.
Question: Do you remember at what age
you became interested in dentistry and was there a specific
Yes. It’s kind of an interesting story.
I was working at Eli Lilly’s when I got out of high school,
and they wanted to send me to pharmacy school at night out
at Butler. …I
went out to Butler and I met one of my friends and he
belonged to a fraternity and they were having rush week, and
to make a long story short I decided I didn’t want to take
nine years to become a pharmacist. I started to work there
at Indiana University at the Student Union Building out at
the Medical Center and there was a dentist there. I worked
from four to eleven and went to school during the day. The
dentist that relieved me at eleven o’clock was an oral
surgeon. I didn’t do the very best on my grades, I made a C-
average which wasn’t really good enough to suit me and I
decided to join the Air Force. So I was talking to him one
night and he wondered what I was going to do in the Air
Force. I said I want something that you can wear clean
clothes, and he said then why don’t you become a dental
laboratory technician. So when I went into the Air Force I
became a dental laboratory technician making dentures and
gold work, and that’s the way I got interested.
Question: --- [concerning foot drills]
…Well from the old foot drill they did
progress up to the electric engines, but the electric
engines most of them, an average hand piece, even in 1950
was about 16,000 revolutions per minute. In 1945 was the
first air rotor hand piece. Air rotor hand piece is a
turbine hand piece and it actually works on the turbine
being suspended into a shaft of air, so there is no really
metal parts rubbing, and they went to from 16,000
revolutions in 1945 to about 1950 when they got things
miniaturized to about 240,000 revolutions, so that’s about
4,000 revolutions per second. That’s the fastest moving
rotary object in the world. Nothing goes around any faster
than that. And it used to take 13 lbs of pressure to cut
enamel, and now it takes 3 ounces of pressure to cut enamel.
A lot of these things we enjoy today the dentists in the
olden days didn’t have.
Question: How long have you practiced
in North Manchester?
I’m going on my 20th
year now. It will be 20 years this fall.
…It used to be that everybody’s teeth
all looked the same but now we can make teeth that look very
compatible with the shape of the face and they tend to look
much more natural than what they did. They have since also
improved the shading of the porcelain with being able to
layer the porcelain through rather than just having one
shade. Some of the new things that have happened in
dentistry now – we still use the amalgam fillings – that’s
still the main kind of filling we use on posterior teeth but
they are rapidly developing tooth colored filling material
which do have far superior properties to what they used to
have. …We’ve developed silicones in dentistry which we will
line a denture like that with and we can put it right on top
of the bloody stumps and the person can go out and chew
anything because the silicone will set up soft like gum
rubber and it actually helps the tissue heal. We use that
now in making an artificial leg. They actually use dental
silicone. They will make the artificial leg prior to the
removal of the amputation and while the patient is still
asleep they will put the silicone in, strap the leg on and
when the patient wakes up they will get up and walk. …
…An implant is only as good as the area
into which it is placed. And the care that the patient gives
the implant. I’ve seen implants that haven’t lasted 3 months
and I’ve seen implants that have lasted 10 years. I think
today with some of the staple implants we have for dentures
you’re probably looking at 15 years. On some of those.
That’s fairly extensive surgery involved with it and one of
the problems is cost because the average staple implant
right now in Indiana is about $8000. So it’s not cheap, but
for somebody who can’t masticate food it’s a viable
Question: Any predictions as to where
dentistry will go in the future?
Well, I was president of my Wabash
Valley Dental Society in 1980 and I gave a talk when I
went out of office, and I said the 1980s is the decade
of change. One of the things that’s changed is we have
turned out too many dentists and this has created a lot
of interesting problems. One of the reasons they were
wanting to do that is to try to lower the cost of
dentistry for the public. One of the real true things is
that only one out of every two people go to a dentist on
a regular basis, so they thought if they could make
dentistry cheaper, they could get that 50% of the
population to go to the dentist that don’t. It hasn’t
worked out that way. …There are all different kinds of
delivery of dentistry today. …there’s what they call
health maintenance organizations, in which you go in and
pay a set rate per person and they guarantee they’ll go
all of your work. It’s not insurance. It’s something
that a person pays. One of the problems with that is a
lot of business managers and stock holders own these
companies and then the idea is that a dentist to try to
do less dentistry per patient so that they can make more
money. It just happens that way and patients aren’t as
happy with it. Dental health insurance has elevated
dentistry for a lot of people who work for factories and
so forth. I think it’s going to be exciting – one of the
breakthroughs they are going to make research that they
keep working with – that we have nothing that really
seals itself to the tooth. The reason we’ve used amalgam
for years and years and years is the amalgam tends to
swell up a tiny bit in the tooth and seal off leakage. I
think they are going to have adhesives which will
duplicate the adhesive that a barnacle makes. A barnacle
is able to form a secretion which will stick to
anything. It can be wet, it can be anything and a
barnacle can stick to it. And that’s one of the things –
you see a tooth is wet and it’s alive, and so if you get
to working at it microscopically it’s always wet, and
there’s no real adhesive that will stick to it. I think
they are going to come up with adhesives which
chemically bind to it, and actually seal itself off. I
think that will happen probably in 3 or 4 years. Right
now, enough adhesive to say cement an inlay in a tooth
costs around a thousand dollars.
But – they’ll get that worked out.