How Did Outlaws in The Early West Keep Their Teeth so Clean

Updated on January 28, 2018
kenneth avery profile image

Kenneth is a natural-born southerner and grew up his entire life in the south where he has resided now for 63 years in Hamilton, Al.,

What Really

do you know about your teeth? This is not a knock on you if you don't. I wish that I knew more about (the remaining) teeth that I have. When I was growing up, my parents did not have the money for me to have proper dental care. My folks could only afford the bare essentials – medical, food, clothes, home, and transportation. If I did require dental care, it had to be an emergency which ended with a dentist in our hometown, a great guy, who charged (my parents) $15.00 (then) to pull a tooth that couldn't be saved. Truth. (Kenneth.)

The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie program worked on a rotating basis  one per month from each of its shows  Top left, Dennis Weaver in McCloud; Richard Boone in Hec Ramsey;  Bottomm  leff Peter Falk in Columbo, Just notice their teeth.
The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie program worked on a rotating basis one per month from each of its shows Top left, Dennis Weaver in McCloud; Richard Boone in Hec Ramsey; Bottomm leff Peter Falk in Columbo, Just notice their teeth. | Source

As Time

went by, I brushed, flossed, used mouth wash and was blessed to have the teeth that came as standard equipment, but I had to get an Upper Plate a few years ago and that is my Dental History, my good friends.

But since I am talking about Teeth, I want to ask you to do something by way of a favor for me. It will not cost you anything but your time. I would love for you to watch any of those Classic TV Westerns--Gunsmoke, Maverick, Wagon Train, those Westerns that I still love today. I could watch these shows all day long and into the night. But my current TV package does not have a channel that affords me that luxury, so I just have wait for my contract to expire with my current satellite provider so I can shop elsewhere for another provider that features something about Classic Westerns.

Now that I have broached the subject, TV Westerns, or those of the Outlaws whom some hate (and love), I have to share something about "these" men who, without their faces, names, and talents, would have shamed the Western Industry, to say nothing about the TV and Film Industries.

Imagine that you are sitting with the likes of Jesse James, his older brother, Frank, and along with their friend, Cole Younger, are about to enjoy a fire-roasted piece of game that not only smells great, but your senses confirm that you are about to enjoy a feast that you have hungered for and dreamt about.

But before your lips touch this fancy feed, your eyes lock on the faces of these future famous Outlaws and suddenly you see something that has been there all along and until now, you are about to see it yourself. You are now privy to viewing up-close the Teeth of these rougish Outlaws with fiery tempers and bravery in their souls. Their Teeth. Have you ever "just" studied the Teeth of these bad men whom Matt Dillion and his friend, Festus Haggan chase? Even these two do-gooders' teeth are works of art. I am not sitting here to make-up this stuff. This is the truth that you are reading.

I was watching an episode of some Western some time ago and in the scene about a bounty hunter going to track down am armed robber and when the bounty hunter spoke to the local sheriff about going to the law-breaker that he saw on a Wanted Poster, the bounty hunter's teeth were so bright that I had to cover my eyes. I could not help but wonder how it would feel to have such straight, clean, and white teeth? Oh, at the T-bone's I could consume. If I had the teeth.

And with that thought, I might add to L. Frank Baum and Libby Hamilton's "Wizard of Oz," about what the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow wanted from The Great Oz, (Dorothy included), I would be glad to bring up the rear with this gang from the road and wilderness to get The Great Oz to give me a mouthful of Great Teeth. What a moment of happiness that would be for Oz, Frank Morgan, to reach into his black bag and then hand me a Dental Diploma or something of that nature that certified that upon me blinking my eyes, turning myself around three times . . .I would then have better teeth than any mule in Arkansas. "Oh, joy! Rapture!" (nod to Ray Bolger, the Scarecrow.)

But great-looking teeth are not indigenous to TV Westerns, but those Classic TV Drama's such as "The Untouchables," with Robert Stack who played Eliot Ness, who was out to "clean up, Chicago" or any big city that was afflicted with illegal bootlegging. Ness and his team all had perfect teeth and even those harsh-talking, greedy bootleggers when arrested had teeth galore. Teeth that any man of any race or nationality would be proud to own.

Now comes "that" part of this commentary where Reality meets Fantasy. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's tough sometimes. This is one of those tough times. Have you ever wondered "how" the lawless men of the West, the James brothers, for example, who are eating a fine, fire-roasted meal with their friend, Cole Younger, always managed to keep their teeth to a perfect, pearly white? Did you ever ask yourself this question? Or were you afraid that those around you who heard you would laugh? I felt this way, until now.

Even the films that depict Crime and Breaking the Law with the roughest of characters on the lamb from a midnight robbery that the lawbreaker didn't commit, just as his spirit is broken and the local authorities are about to nab him, he looks directly into the camera and we view those beautiful incisors, molars, and eye teeth that the girls would surely swoon upon viewing them. I know my teeth research and teeth affect the feelings of young, single women. Not when I had teeth, but TV and film stars.

And to this day, Jan. 28, 2018, my question of "how did the men of the West (in reality) and the outlaws keep their teeth so clean and perfect? There were really no dental offices to speak of in many of these shows. It was said that the famous gunfighter, John Henry "Doc" Holliday was a dentist before he took up playing Poker and befriending the Earp brothers. But no films or documentaries ever shown Holliday looking into the mouth of a patient with an abscessed tooth. I wonder why "this" fact has been covered up for so long?

All I have to show for all of my research, digging, and looking-up various stories and websites about "Teeth in The Early USA" is more frustration and headaches. I do know that my dad's parents, one set of my grandparents, kept the youngest limbs of the Huckleberry Tree that my granddad found in the woods and he would cut the small limbs into toothbrushes--not because he was cheap, but because these Works of Nature, worked so well.

But that was not the case with ALL of the bandits, killers, and highway men in how they kept their feet so ship shape. And tooth paste was years in the future, so there is another mystery: what did Early Western Men (and Women) Use for Toothpaste?

I give up the search. I advise you to do the same.



This is Bruce Dern: one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood. Dern portrayed any sort of outlaw, con-man and even a farmer one time. But the most-amazing this about him is his teeth. Take a good look.
This is Bruce Dern: one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood. Dern portrayed any sort of outlaw, con-man and even a farmer one time. But the most-amazing this about him is his teeth. Take a good look. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kenneth Avery

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      • kenneth avery profile image
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        Kenneth Avery 4 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Thank you both, Rochelle and RoadMonkey -- you have helped me to answer my question about outlaws and their teeth. I appreciate you all very much. Keep writing and remember to write me anytime.

      • kenneth avery profile image
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        Kenneth Avery 4 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Hey, Faith - Hope - Love -- I agree with you about the baking soda and soot. My grandparents used soda and it helped. But my grandpa had to wear false teeth and he cared for them well. But now in my early 60s, I am missing the steaks, peanuts and things that my real teeth in my youth could bite like with the strength of a mule.

        Ahhh, youth.

        Write me soon.

      • kenneth avery profile image
        Author

        Kenneth Avery 4 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Hi, Bronwen -- I haven't seen you in a while. How are you? I hope that you are doing well. And thank you for your perfect comment--which I agree about your grandpa's wisdom. Have a great day and write me anytime.

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 months ago from Victoria, Australia

        Well, those actors probably made sure their teeth were well-cared for. But the people they were portraying may not have ever visited a dentist and yet had good teeth due to diet and good habits. My Grandpa never owned a toothbrush, yet his teeth remained fine for the whole of his life. Toothpicks and rinsing with water after meals was his secret.

      • profile image

        Faith-Hope-Love 4 months ago

        Kenneth. In my day there was no way that a good many folks could afford either medic or dental care. It had to be really serious for them to go to see either doctor or dentist. They did develop their own health care and it was often quite extreme and /or novel. In some jungle tribal groups some would use a tooth Stick. In more civilised places they used Baking Soda and some actuall mixed it with soot. There was as many ways to clean ones teeth as there was tribes or peoples. in a lot of these people you found very healthy teeth. But as you so rightly say who really knows what or how they in the old west looked after their health much less if they had perfect teeth. Like you I have always had a love affair with classic westerns.

      • Rochelle Frank profile image

        Rochelle Frank 4 months ago from California Gold Country

        I think RoadMonkey is on to something, but

        actually the ancient Egyptians had toothpaste, of a sort-- I have a hub: https://hubpages.com/entertainment/Is-Life-Getting...

      • RoadMonkey profile image

        RoadMonkey 4 months ago

        Very simple, they didn't eat sugar or any of the products that produce sugar in your mouth. They had no fizzy drinks, no confectionery, no candy. The Eskimos (Inuit) had perfect teeth on a diet of whale blubber and seal meat. They only got tooth decay when they had access to candy. People in the old west ate about as much sugar in a year as some of us consume in a week, these days.

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