Dentist in 1900-What Can He Do?

Suppose you are a well to do Bostonian in 1900. What can your local dentist do? I assume filling a cavity is well within his capability, but what about a root canal? Or would he simply pull a badly decayed tooth? What about anethesia-would he have novocaine, nitrous oxide, etc.? Did most adults in 1900 lose a lot of their teeth?

He would not have novocain, which wasn’t invented until 1905. He would have nitrous oxide, ether, and chloroform. He’d be able to x-ray your teeth, fill any cavities he finds, and, if you need it, extract a tooth and put in a false one.

He could definitely remove teeth. When I had my wisdom teeth removed they basically strapped me down and yanked. It felt like their methods hadn’t improved much since the Civil War.

Read Frank Norris’s McTeague, where he accurately describes some dental procedures of the time.

Even without X-rays, dentists could fill cavities and pull teeth. He could also make false teeth for patients.

Wasn’t cocaine used as a dental anaesthetic before the introduction of Novocaine?

Depending on how old he was, he could still probably give you a haircut.

It was, but by 1900, it had fallen out of favor by reputable dentists because of risk of seizure or overdose.

What soiviss dis ees!

Were there any other local anesthetics available, or was procaine/Novocain, which was apparently first synthesized in 1898, the first one available other than cocaine?

I don’t believe there were.

Laudanum was also used well into the 20th century.

I think that a dentist’s main goal would have been to knock you out so that you didn’t feel anything and didn’t try to kill him. Gotta like their attention to aesthetics in some of their chairs though (thoughthisis more common).

When I lived in Georgia my dentist was a collateral descendant of local son Doc Holliday who worked in practice with some relatives and whose father and grandfather had been dentists like their famous relative whose name they shared. They had an antique chair on display that one of their ancestors had used around the turn of the century and it really did have manacles on it that you could tell from the patina and the discoloration of the arms weren’t just for show. (I’d thought those were a joke from movies, but I would imagine many people had to be restrained to stop them for bolting or attacking.)

The first dental X-Rays were made in New Orleans in 1896. I’m not sure when the practice became common, but the dental X-rays were just one year after Roentgen introduced the X-ray.
Novacaine was released in1905, two years after the porcelain crown, so apparently the turn of the century was a busy time for dental progress.

Probably no x rays, either. Roentgen discovered them in 1895. Although somebody almost immediately x-rayed teeth, commercial x ray machines took a few years to appear on the scene. This site claims that production of the first commercial dental x ray unit was in 1905, also:

That’s nothing new to 1900.
George Washington had them, in the 1700’s. (Though probably not actually wooden.) For that matter, so did some of the ancient Romans.

What’s gross is that some of them were actually human teeth he purchased from slaves and poor farmers. (Not uncommon; in the novel Les Miserables Fantine sells her front teeth to a denture maker when she’s on her downward spiral.)