Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dental Care

During a recent pleasant afternoon conversation with cousin Blanche our conversation turned to dentists. Like so many other people, Blanche dreads going to the dentist. She told me she grips the arms of the chair so tightly that her dentist has been known to ask her if he is hurting her.

I was curious. "When did you first visit a dentist?" I asked her. She told me she was about fifteen years old.

"I suppose you went to Little Washington. Is that right?"

"No," Blanche said. "A dentist came to Ocracoke, and set up his equipment in his rental cottage. He was young. I think he had just recently graduated from dental school."

"What kind of a drill did he use," I asked.

"Oh, he had a foot powered, treadle drill," she answered.

"Of course, there was no Novocaine," I commented, knowing full well that was the case.

It wasn't difficult to understand Blanche's fear of dentists.

Blanche then proceeded to tell me that her mother, Elizabeth Ballance Howard (1885 - 1970) had two gold teeth. She, too, had her dental work performed on the island by a Dr. Gallagher, who came to the island each summer for several years around the turn of the twentieth century. He, too, brought all of his equipment with him, and treated islanders as he was able.

Sometimes I get nostalgic thinking about "the way Ocracoke used to be," but then I think how fortunate I am to have access to modern dental care!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the unique "Ocracoke Greeting." You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous10:18 AM

    Modern dentistry, indeed!

    Unlike my children, who've seen a dentist every six months since they were toddlers, my first visit was during fifth grade, back in about 1971.

    And though the dentist used an electric drill, not a treadle model, to fill my "FIVE" cavities, he most certainly did NOT use novocaine, which left me, like Blanche, squeezing the arms of the chair so hard I was sure that my fingers were leaving indentations.

    1. Man those times are tough as nails. Imagine that, taking on the pain head-on. Props to you sir.

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  3. My father came to Ocracoke in 1961 as a summer dentist (with a NC Dept of Public Health program). He had just graduated from dental school and brought along his wife and five young children. His house was on the corner of British Cemetery Road and Back Street and he mentioned setting up his office in the school building. Anyone remember going to see him?