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 NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 North Manchester, Indiana

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EARLY DENTISTRY IN NORTH MANCHESTER
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 prices.

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 Grocery Store.

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 day only.

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 off.

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 Manchester.

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 teeth.

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 reason why?

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. …

Question: …implants?

…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 alternative.

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.