Before John Baker arrived from London and promoted the notion of specialized “surgeon dentists,” it looks like most Bostonians went to their regular doctors for dental care—which usually meant having teeth pulled rather than repaired. Indeed, losing one’s teeth seem to have been an experience that connected people.
John Cary, the biographer of Dr. Joseph Warren, wrote: “During the first years of practice, Warren charged one shilling, four pence for the extraction of teeth, one of his most common medical services.” On 27 Jan 1765, for example, Warren recorded extracting a tooth from Hannah Flucker, who was then fourteen years old. Her father was Thomas Flucker, later the last Secretary of the royal province, and her younger sister Lucy married Henry Knox.
Dr. Elisha Story extracted teeth from town watchman Benjamin Burdick’s wife and children. Indeed, Story’s office records for 12 Oct 1768 seem to be the only documentation for one of those children. Burdick and Knox were both at the Boston Massacre, trying to calm the conflict.
Ame [pronounced, I think, as “Amy”] and Elizabeth Cumings were two sisters who came to Boston from Scotland in the 1760s to set up a shop. Among the many things they sold, according to their ad in the 11 Nov 1765 Boston Gazette, were “Teeth Tincture and Powder.” In 1771 Knox rented space from the Cumingses for his first bookshop.
Merchant John Rowe wrote in his diary on 14 June 1769:
Sent for Dr. [James] Lloyd to have my Tooth drawn & had not Resolution to go thro’ the Operation.One person who didn’t remove teeth was the painter John Singleton Copley (whose painting of Warren appears above, and who also painted Flucker). But the Rev. Dr. Mather Byles, Sr., who rarely passed by a chance for a pun, reportedly told a man to go to Copley’s house to have a tooth drawn. Drawn—get it? (With jokes like that, it’s no surprise that Dr. Byles’s congregation swiftly voted to remove him from their pulpit after the war began.)