Looking Back - A bit long in the tooth.

By Leo Billington

Having recently read an article about dental care, it is worth visiting stories from the past to show a visit these days to a dentist isn’t as traumatic as might be expected.

Historical Dentist Surgery Equipment

Mr Trood was a regular advertiser in the Morwell Advertiser from about 1898 onwards for many years. His surgery was based in Sale and promoted his skill as “the only dentist in Sale that makes and repairs teeth on the premises. Extractions were guaranteed without pain for 5 shillings.”

But Morwell was not to miss out on Mr Trood’s skills and expertise. During the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, he promoted his monthly visits to Morwell. Consultancies could be arranged for each second Tuesday of the month at Davey’s Hotel. Also on those occasions, Mr Trood made it known to aspiring patients he would pay the highest price for “old gold artificial plates.” We may conclude copious quantities of whisky was on tap when extractions were done.

During the early 1920’s Mr Trood changed his advertisements to “every extraction is painless – even the most sensitive nerve becomes dead to pain under A J Trood’s reliable anaesthetic, and there are absolutely NO after effects.”

He began to venture further (business must have been growing) with visits to Mirboo North, Boolarra and Yinnar. He began to promote his new Morwell location as a dental parlour opposite J Hall’s Emporium in Commercial Road.

But alas, Mr Trood then encountered competition from Mr Tatterson, who marketed his dental skills as ‘the registered resident dentist’ in Morwell. In 1926 and for some time onwards, he advertised that appointments could be made either for every Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday or Thursday morning. He visited Boolarra and the Yallourn Western Camp.

It seems Mr Tatterson was serious in claiming market share – by advertising “This is my 25th year with you and still going strong. My work needs no puff, every set speaks for itself as thousands can testify. Extractions are by laughing gas and somnoform ( a mixture of three liquid anesthetics: ethyl chloride, methyl chloride and ethyl bromide. It was introduced by Dr. G. Rolland, Dean of the dental school in Bordeaux, France, in 1901.)

Historical Dentist Tools

While these two dentists plied their respective attributes, Mr J B Barker, late of Maffra and Sydney Road Brunswick must have thought this was impressive credentialing and decided there was a “long felt want” in Morwell for a better dentist.

Mr Barker placed a grand advertisement in the Morwell Advertiser Friday , November 2, 1900 telling residents his surgery would be located at the Universal Emporium. He promised “close attention to business, combined with civility and therefore merits the patronage of the general public.”

By the way, Mr Barker also planned to have a full stock of drugs and chemicals. Medicines for horses, cattle and dogs were also available. But above all, “teeth extraction was a speciality.”

Mr French was another dentist early in the 1900’s who boasted of “painless dentistry.” He visited Morwell on Tuesdays offering teeth to be stopped (filling a cavity) and sealed. Patients could see him at a hotel in Morwell.

Mr A M Thiessen was around for quite some years during the late 1930’s, early 1940’s mainly consulting from “the premises of Miss Doherty, Margo Salon (next door to the Post Office).” He seemed to visit every Tuesday afternoon. In the mid 1940’s, Mr Thiessen relocated to a more salubrious location – Mr W Davey’s Hairdressing Salon. It seems every Tuesday, 2.00 pm to 5.30 pm, haircuts and dental work could conveniently be administered during the same afternoon.

In the 1920’s, Mr Kenneth Russell and Dr J A Clarebrough announced their consultations would be available every Tuesday, at McKay’s Hotel. Between these two, patients were assured of specialist treatment for artificial dentures, fillings, crown and bridge work. Their marketing “hook” was that they occupied a surgery in Collins Street, Melbourne.

During the early 1940’s, Mr G J Elder-Berwick moved into premises above Evans Newsagency in Commercial Road. He provided evening consultations on Mondays and Wednesdays alongside day surgery during Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thursday afternoons were reserved for visits to Yinnar and Boolarra.

Mr J G Everard Haugh, whom may of us may remember, started advertising in the early 1940’s that he was a “resident dental surgeon’ at 26 Hazelwood Road Morwell – five days a week (9.00 am to 6.00 pm) plus evenings by appointment. Mr Haugh later moved to his surgery, up a long flight of stairs, above Evans Newsagency. It appears he took over from Mr G J Elder-Berwick.

Many will recall, over in Church Street, another dental surgery was established – for Peter Eves and Rhys Milner. In October 1951, they advertised their new business, including weekly visits to Boolarra and Yinnar. At Boolarra, consultations were provided near McLeans Store. In Yinnar, it was at the Mechanics Hall.

This is a snap shot of dentistry during Morwell’s early growth as a fledging town and community.

Historical Dentist Chair

However, let’s spare a brief moment for much earlier times when dentistry was quite brutal. At the Wellcome Collection museum in London, visitors can see a 19th century barber-surgeon chair, for patients to sit in while enduring – with a razor and other crude tools – limb amputation and teeth pulling as well as hair trimming.

For anyone who could not afford the barber-surgeon, the blacksmith provided an alternative.

Barber-surgeons’ tools included a tooth key, a form of early forceps featuring a claw and a bolster placed against the gum.

A toothbrush, complete with silver-gilt handle, belonging to Napoleon, whose teeth were described as “bad and dirty”, is also on show.

It seems throughout his life George Washington employed numerous full and partial dentures that were constructed of materials including human, and probably cow and horse teeth, ivory (possibly elephant), lead-tin alloy, copper alloy (possibly brass), and silver alloy.

Another fascinating story is that Captain Arthur Phillip had respect from the Aboriginal people because he was missing a front tooth. This tooth was the same tooth that they knocked out as part of their initiation ceremonies.

As some-one once asked, “perfect teeth – vanity or necessity?”