During my transcribing today, I was listening to this story, all told with a lovely Teesdale lilt. A tale of teeth from the shed…
“My very first job was a long time coming. I had to study Dentistry and that’s the longest thing that you can set you mind on. It takes for jonks and jonks. Do you know how long a jonk is? Starts with a J and ends with a K and goes on forever! It takes a terribly long time to get those hands laid on you. When you’ve done all that study, that’s the best part of your life gone for starters. So you have to keep on really; there’s nowt else for it.
You get into it of course; there is a big satisfaction in it. I specialised in children’s dentistry mainly, but of course all sorts of things happen to children’s teeth. They get fractured, broken, so there are root canals and crowns – it goes on forever.
I studied at Newcastle Dental School and then I went into practice with my own dentist because he had put his name on my brow first of all. He had straightened my teeth because I was a thumb sucker and he put them back with an elastic band – it was very sophisticated in those days. It was a plate you wore on your palette and you had to change the elastic band everyday more or less, because it lost its tension. So I was sucking my thumb a lot in my early years, probably because of the stress of my parents. My dentist eventually got them back and fortunately they stayed back, but I had to keep reminding them of the fact. They had a habit of springing back when you didn’t want them and I had to have a retainer for a while. As a youngster you are terribly at risk, because you are constantly falling against things and fracturing your teeth. So thanks to him, I came out into the world looking fairly reasonable.
As I say, my dentist took me under his wing and I went to work for him when I graduated. He was a marvellous boss, because really you haven’t done anything by the time you qualify, hardly learnt how to take a tooth out easily. Bear in mind, this was in Durham County and your customers were mostly miners and there were teeth in their mouths that were never ever meant to come out. There was no technology for it, so they just had to decay naturally. No one knew anything about fluoride or fluoride in your toothpaste. Some special places had one part per million of fluoride in the water and that helped preserve them.
It seems strange to think of it now, but for a 21st birthday some people were offered a full set of dentures, to have all their teeth taken out and replaced by false teeth. Does that shock you? It should do! But it was common. They were often given that as a very important present – ‘You can have all your teeth out and have a nice set of false ones instead!’