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The Whole Tooth: Backwoods Wizard

By Dr. Robert Kelly, D.M.D.

The Whole Tooth: Backwoods Wizard

As we have made our way through another autumn, I have tried to take the time to appreciate all the beauty around us. The beautiful bright colors of the trees and leaves everywhere seem extra vibrant to me this year. From the window of our office today, as some deer made their way through our colorful garden, I am reminded of how blessed we are to live in such beautiful surroundings.

The sight of the deer brought a smile to my face and to my patient’s; the backdrop of the bright red and yellow maple leaves behind it were a perfect frame for a mental photograph that will live on in my memory.
Later on in the day, I had to chuckle and smile when I read a dental news article by author Kevin Henry, who wrote about “The Wild Tale Behind a Denture Made of Deer Teeth.” This story also left an imprint on my memory.

To introduce the main character: Francis Wharton, a Canadian in the remote British Columbia woods in the 1960s, was both an expert hunter and apparently an inventor as well. He was a bit of an eccentric and lived alone in a very isolated area. He found himself in a predicament. He did not have teeth to eat with. He was far from civilization. One day he shot a deer and then used the deer’s teeth to make a full set of upper dentures for himself. He filed down the teeth to sculpt them to the proper shape and size and then, using a base of wood, set the teeth with a household cement.

A magazine article at the time reported that he used these dentures for at least three years although he described them as “loose” and “dark and dirty.” They probably did not fit well at all, but it is amazing that he was able to make a set that actually looked pretty close to a modern day denture (you can google it and find a picture online). If you ever wanted to take a look at them in person, they are on display in Canada at the Museum of Health Care in Kingston. Pretty impressive. Equally impressive (or disturbing) is he used those same teeth to eat the deer he originally shot! I guess he earned his nickname “The Backwoods Wizard!”

As I’ve heard from friends and patients recently about the autumn hunting season of 2023, it’s hard not to reflect upon “The Backwoods Wizard.” And I didn’t even have time to talk about his amazing battles with wild bears in the Canadian wilderness. Maybe next month. I’ll see you all again here at The Whole Tooth in the New Year!

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