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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
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A Presidential Selfie and Peaches & Cream

Sep 03, 2014

By Dean George

If you have a fear of dentists you’re in famous historical company.

For all his military exploits of daring do and courage, Napoleon “Boney” Bonaparte demonstrated quite the opposite when having a wisdom tooth extracted while serving in exile on the South Atlantic island of St. Helena. In fact, in what is believed to be his very first dental visit, the “little general” had to be physically restrained on the ground during the procedure.

When the man responsible for the death of millions was told by his personal dentist he needed a root canal, Herr Führer Hitler insisted the work be done over eight days because he ‘couldn’t stand the pain’ of having it all done at once, according to the 2009 book, “Dentist of the Devil.”

Interestingly, the same book shared that Hermann Goring, the founder of the dreaded Gestapo and the head of the Nazi Luftwaffe (Air Force) ‘cried before he even got in the chair.’

This past February in a post about American presidential dental history we were surprised to learn that Abraham Lincoln had a dental phobia. But as we wrote then, Ol’ Abe had a good reason. Here he is in his own words in a letter sent to best friend Joshua Speed’s half sister, Mary Speed in 1841:

Do you remember my going to the city while I was in Kentucky, to have a tooth extracted, and making a failure of it? Well, that same old tooth got to paining me so much, that about a week since I had it torn out, bringing with it a bit of the jawbone…”

‘So other than your shattered jawbone, Mr. Lincoln, how would you rate our service during today’s dental visit?’ In today’s sue-first litigious society, it seems odd that even a 19th century Illinois lawyer chose not to bring a personal injury suit or file a malpractice claim. 

Little is known about the medical details involving the Kentucky dentist who performed that jaw breaking operation, but what is known to be true is that Lincoln was given no anesthesia during the operation.

That certainly makes it understandable why the future President developed a phobia of men wielding forceps and why he carried his own anesthetic during future dental visits. Yeah, you read that right. Lincoln is believed to be the only President who anesthetized himself before a dental procedure but more on that shortly.

His letter to Ms. Speed continued “…the consequence of which is that my mouth is now so sore that I can neither talk, nor eat. I am litterally (sic) subsisting on savoury (sic) remembrances – that is, being unable to eat, I am living upon the remembrance of the delicious dishes of peaches and cream we used to have at your house."

In 1975 Dr. Maynard K. Hines, an Indianapolis dental historian and former American Dental Association president, suggested that it was Lincoln’s good diet and the naturally fluoridated water at his boyhood homes in Kentucky and southern Indiana that helped preserve Lincoln’s teeth despite the lack of regular dental visits.

Hines also noted that there are two records of Lincoln purchasing toothbrushes so, “one can assume that he had some understanding of methods of maintaining oral hygiene.”

Other historians have noted that Lincoln was a light eater, drank only water and didn’t smoke or chew tobacco. If he were alive today the ADA would probably make him an honorary president emeritus and some entrepreneur would be selling a black Lincoln toothbrush that would play the Gettysburg address synchronized for the recommended two-minute brushing time.

Before becoming president Lincoln did have another tooth removed in 1856 by Dr. Wesley Wampler in what is now Humboldt, Illinois, but it was his fourth and final dental visit at the offices of Dr. G.S. Wolf near the White House where Lincoln exercised some presidential prerogative and conducted an ingenious domestic policy.

As Wolf prepared to pull Lincoln’s tooth, the president surprised the dentist by pulling a vial of chloroform from his pocket long enough to take a slow, long whiff. The subsequent tooth extraction was reported as practically painless and earned Honest Abe the distinction of taking the first and only known presidential selfie in a dental chair.

Fortunately today dentists provide the anesthesia and we provide the dental plans that make those six-month visits relatively painless. To see how painless, just click here.

Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk, and for more dental news you can use, feel free to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, and LinkedIn

Sources:,,, Southeast Missourian
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Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC© 

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