Dentists are basically the stuff of nightmares for some people. Whether they're nice folks in their regular, everyday life or not, those of us in the chair can't help but feel a certain… Nervousness. Anxiety. Paralyzing fear. It's unavoidable. There's something freaky about a person cranking open our mouths, freezing our gums, and fixing/grinding/cleaning/pulling out our teeth. It's totally unsettling, though very necessary. Without dentists we'd be toothless Gumbys, probably in pain and drinking salad through a straw. Luckily dentistry has improved over the last few decades. What used to involve illegal substances and the back of a wagon now involves regulated anesthetic and at least two or three receptionists. It's clear that the ancient art of dentistry has developed into a safe, contemporary science. But that doesn't mean we should forget where it started. Check out these terrifying, shocking, raw, and ugly pictures of vintage dentistry. Warning: if you're already scared of dentists, this might be tough.
15 Ready to tumble
Look at this picture. It seems like it's from the wild west, with a nice aging effect and a clear sense of discomfort. While we don't think it's the worst photo in the world, if you've ever had your wisdom teeth out you'd know just how bad this actually is. Imagine, instead of being put under and knocked out while the nice dentist extracts your teeth, being awake. Now imagine that there's not only no knock out gas, but no equipment. Now picture yourself sitting in a regular chair while a pair of pliers comes at your face. Yeah, it's terrifying. This guy looks ready to fall over, and we're about ready to faint as well. Plus, a dentist who wears a hat like that doesn’t really inspire a whole lot of confidence. We’d rather keep the pliers in the hands of the construction guys, rather than the cowboy dentists. (Now that’s a phrase that’s terrifying in and of itself!)
What's the next best thing to laughing gas? Rusty chains. No more expensive treatments from the dental assistant, you're looking at the next big thing in medical care. Dentists everywhere are going to be clamouring for this huge advance in technology. They can get rid of their assistant and their fancy equipment, which makes room for this scary medieval torture device. Just kidding! This picture is one of the most painful we've seen, but was a common practice back in the day. Vintage dentistry wasn't as fancy or advanced as current dentistry, as you can clearly see. Luckily we've moved past this horrifying practice of chaining people up. We've got laughing gas and numbing juice now, which makes the chains unnecessary… Unless your dentist is going for that creepy torture-rack look.
This headgear is certainly not for the faint of heart. While we've all seen the brace face pictures of poor, old timey kids with the straps around their faces, this looks more like a torture device. While not headgear in the braces sense, it's just as scary to think about. This weird contraption was a teeth spacer, opening the mouth to let the dentist work more thoroughly. While we have developed similar tools now, they don't look anything like this. This contraption is a terrifying shock when we think of the slick tools there are now. Plus, take a look at her face. While this might be a classic vintage ad style, you can tell that she's not happy at all about having these metallic spider legs crawling and clinging to her face. Yikes… Thank goodness we’ve moved past this weird contraption.
12 "Snow" white
Don't you want that pearly glow? Nose Candy is white, and we all want white teeth, so it makes sense that one would use it for teeth whitening… right? Wrong. Nose Candy was never used to whiten teeth, and if used today can give you teeth and gum problems. Amongst many other issues, depending on the way of ingestion and how intense your habit it. The white powder was, however, used in dentistry. As this sign demonstrates, it was one of the fanciest and most contemporary inventions of the time. It was used as a numbing agent and rubbed on the gums before extraction, or other work. While it's not the chemical laden and questionable mix that exists now in the world, it had much of the same effects. We're glad that other chemical concoctions exist now, and it is out of the office.
11 Science Fiction Double Feature
Not only do we have that creepy mouth opening device, but we have this scary rendition of what we can only assume is an X-ray device. It looks like the robot overloads have finally overtaken us and are in the process of examining a man. While that’s definitely not what’s happening, the science fiction horror stories start to run through our brains when we see this scary shot. It almost looks like the Canada Arm; while we appreciate that this was a step in the right direction for dental science, we don’t like the fact that it had to happen. It’s unsettling, and doesn’t help if you have a combined fear of artificial intelligence and dentistry. We’ll stick with the big things that look like scanners/photocopiers now, that gently press up against your cheek and have a quiet hum. No doubt this thing is a whirring, clunking mess, causing a lot of nerves and teeth chattering for the person getting examined.
10 Raggedy Business
Another terrifying look at how patients’ pain was dealt with. This dentist chair doesn't look anywhere near as advanced as the other one. It doesn't even have chains! The dentist has just tied rags around the patient's wrists, and called on his assistant to help hold the man's head. We admit that the rag idea is a much better one than what some of these guys are doing. There's pictures on this list that feature feet, hands, and full-bodied tackles in order to try and keep the patients from moving. This idea seems much smarter though, as it keeps the assistant out of the way. It also picks up all the sweat that's probably running down his forehead, which might have gotten in the way of the dentist. He's got his hand on the cloth, which would definitely not work if there was slick, salty water dripping down the face. As if this process wasn't bad enough, imagine what would have happened if the dentist's hand had slipped! He might hit him in the face with those pliers, which would not feel good. He's already got a toothache…He doesn't need a black eye too!
9 Good Old-Fashioned Dental Care
There’s nothing worse than crowded waiting rooms. Well, not exactly. There’s few things worse than crowded waiting rooms, and one of those things is not being in a waiting room at all. Another of those things is having your fellow patient have to help hold you down as you get a tooth pulled. Yet another is having the rest of your friends, who are equally as in pain as you, watch and moan, waiting for their turn under the pliers. These guys are experiencing all of that all at once, and it doesn’t look like anyone is having fun… Especially the dentist! He looks tired, and the fact that he’s got such a blank stare while digging into this man’s jaw is TERRIFYING. How is it possible that this was dentistry? It seems so hard to believe. At least he’s got the white coat, which is maybe the only sign of credibility about him. Unfortunately the vodka doesn’t help his case… But it might help the guys who are in pain.
8 Just Give Up
This kid looks like he has no hope of a healthy smile, and doesn’t really want to try for it. We don’t blame him! Those tools are sketchy, and they don’t look very comfortable. We also are surprised at how much this kid’s mouth stretches. It’s a wide angled look at one of the most intimate parts of his body, and we’re disturbed. The dentist looks like he means business, and while these might be a little more contemporary, we’re hoping he’s retired these. There’s got to be a better way to keep someone’s mouth open! While we know that holding a jaw wide can get tiring, especially if you’re having intense surgery, we’d rather that than the cold metal claws of pain. The kid’s thinking the same thing, wondering how he ever got into this mess in the first place. We hope his appointment was swift, and that he didn’t need to stay in the torture devices for long. How do dentists manage to live with themselves? Look at all his pain!
7 Texas Hold ‘Em
Sometimes the best photos are the ones that look… Well, the most normal. Scanning from the bottom of the picture up, we see a tipped over chair. It’s not uncommon, and maybe not the worst thing in the world. It’s certainly a sign of something going on, and the foot on top doesn’t help. Next, the eye catches a man sitting, and another man’s foot near his crotch. Maybe a little uncomfortable for those of us who are squeamish about feet, but also not bad. Then we see the hand holding. This photo can go one of two ways now. Either it’s a romance story in classic sepia, or the two guys are fighting like wildcats. Surprise! It’s not until we move up to the top of the photo that we see the real reason the two are entwined. It’s the dentist, and another scary shot of two people working on one guy. Similar to the last one, the patient had to be held down in order to be worked on. If you’ve ever had a wisdom tooth out, just think of what that would have been like without pain medication, anesthetic, or anything else… That’s what they’re doing here.
6 Gun to the Head
Maybe it’s not a real gun, but it’s almost as unsettling. This gorgeous still looks too good to be real, but we included it anyway. It’s dramatic, and probably not far off from what X-Ray machines were actually like, if the earlier picture is any indication. It’s just so strange to see these two working on one man. The whole picture seems a little off, and we’re not sure if it's the blank looks, the fact that they’re all so well dressed, or the headrest of the chair. It could be all of these things, and maybe even more. The metal structure that ends in a point looks like a death laser, which is not totally far removed from what X-Rays used to be. We all know what happened to Marie Curie! Maybe the dentist was trying to use radiation to turn him into a new, super patient. Someone whose teeth are always perfect! Or… Maybe not. Either way, this photo gives us a bit of a fright, and we thought you’d like to see it too.
5 It’s All Relative
Sure, five dollars doesn’t seem like much for anesthetic now (in fact, we’d happily go to the dentist if it was only going to cost that much!) but this sign brings up a great point about inflation and relative pricing. We’ve seen a few photos where men are being held down by other men, getting their teeth pulled while having another body, or two, or chains, keep them attached to the chair. The sign here might explain why. In times of the depression, money was scarce. It was a struggle to eat for many people, let alone get dental work done. 5 cents was decent money, and while most people could afford it in the case of an emergency, not many of them could spring the 5 dollars for the anesthetic. No wonder it’s a sub-heading on the sign! People had to go through terrible pain in order to try and make their terrible pain stop. While we might grumble about how much the gas and anesthetic cost now, it’s not as bad as this ration. Five dollars to five cents is way worse than 150 dollars to whatever your extraction cost is.
4 Where there's a will… There's a way...
...at least according to these world war one soldiers. When you're out in the trenches the world seems scary. There's bombs, gas, shots, and friends dying all around you. Trench foot is a real issue, as is scurvy if the rations aren't proper. Starvation and cold could also kill, along with the trauma of being there. But what about your teeth? We hear about the medics and nurses that helped the soldiers through various wars, but what about the dentists? Were there even any, or were toothaches just another thing to deal with? This photo shows that hey, maybe there were dentists out in the field. While we don't think they did any intense surgery, we do think that it was good to have them around. Tooth pain is a distraction on the best of days, so imagine what it would have been like in these conditions! It is scary though, and this photo is a raw, hard look at life in the field. We're very thankful we're safe here and can walk to our closest dental office; and not have to do it out of the back of a wagon.
3 The Tooth Fairy is a Lie
There is nothing more annoying than the tooth fairy lie, right, parents? Kids with loose teeth will brag for weeks, days, and sometimes even a month before the tooth falls out. They're excited about getting a visit from the tooth fairy, a fake creature that supposedly leaves money under a pillow in exchange for teeth. Who even came up with that? There's been tons of spin off movies and TV shows that feature the same idea, which doesn't help to break your child of the desperate quest for tooth fairy cash. Maybe we should go back to olden times with this, where the home dentist was a widely accepted action. This woman has all the tools she needs (pliers and a chair) and is ready for a good yanking. Her kid has probably been talking about the tooth fairy for ages, and she's sick of it. While you might get in trouble with the authorities if you tried to pull this today, we're glad this photo exists. It's the perfect amount of wishful thinking and horrific shock that makes us thankful we don't live in that day and age any more…. Or at least, that makes our children thankful!
2 Dentistry stooges
Okay, maybe this isn't vintage in the sense of our other photos. While some of these have been pulled from advertising campaigns, others have been taken as accounts of dentistry at the time. Other pictures have also been modern shots of old signs. This , however, is totally different. This shot is a still from everyone's favorite vintage comedy troupe, The Three Stooges. These three wacky and wild guys have been making us laugh for many years. We keep seeing their faces everywhere, especially since their retro, classic gags have been coming back. Vintage comedy is really freaking funny; why else would it have lasted this long? We do, however, get a little shock of fear when we see this picture. These funny guys are not the ones we want to see holding our dentist equipment and standing above our chair. They might be the funniest trio around, but we're not confident they're the best dentists...
1 Feeling Gassy
Let's talk about this shocking photo of a news advertisement. While it's not the most gruesome thing on this list, we're shocked that someone in a medical field would allow this. Nowadays we have specific people to anesthetize us. These people have studied how to do it, how much to give, and what to do if something goes wrong. We feel safe in their hands, and trust that the years of training pay off. What this photo is implying is that you don't need those certificates and classes in order to administer gas. The patient is able to anesthetize themselves, which makes absolutely no sense. Would you say yes if your dentist offered you the control? What about if your nurse suggested you take your own blood? We know we wouldn't be able to, nor would we ever want to go back to that dentist again. It's shocking and scary, this picture, and we're thankful we have laws in place now that prevent this from happening.