Dentistry in the Old West

Dentistry in the Old West

Dentsitry in Old West

When we think of the Old West, we tend to imagine a world much like the one shown in films: horses and tired ghost-towns and gloriously amoral heroes. But for those who lived in the Old West, it was a trying time to live separated from society. Many modern amenities simply were not available on the West Coast at the time–things like dentistry.

Although the soldiers stationed in the West generally had some of the best medical treatments at the time, dentistry was sadly not one of them (since the Military Dental Corps was not formed until 1901). Instead, military surgeons acted as dentists because trained dentists typically didn’t travel so far West.

As a result of the surgeons’ limited understanding of oral care and thus limited treatment potentials, dental care became somewhat of a terrifying prospect for the cowboys and miners of the time. After all, the most common “treatment” for any sort of tooth pain was almost inevitably extraction by plier-like forceps with no other anesthesia except copious amount of alcohol. Evidently, the people of the time feared tooth-pulling as much as they do today. No wonder patients would often delay seeing a dentist as long as possible, often worsening their situations until there was no other solution except extraction.

Perhaps an even more terrifying thought to the patients was that they might get the wrong tooth extracted. Because the surgeons generally had very little training in actual dentistry, they depended solely on their patients to describe their symptoms. Doctors then had to make a decision about which tooth was causing the ailments. Unfortunately, because of the structure and hyper-sensitivity of nerves in the mouth, the source of dental pain is difficult to pinpoint, even today.  So back then, if the patient wasn’t specific or accurate enough, the surgeon would pull out the wrong tooth, causing more problems.

Of course, certified dentists did live and practice in the Old West. The most famous dentist, Doc Holliday, was a relatively successful dentist who moved to the West after contracting tuberculosis. Perhaps unfortunately for the residents at the time, he chose to become a famous outlaw and gambler instead of practicing dentistry.

As time progressed, more technology did eventually trickle to the West, like some forms of anesthesia. As a whole though, the Old West lacked the oral care that was becoming more and more prevalent in the East, much to the detriment of the people living there.

Today, technology has advanced far beyond that which was available in the Old West so you can breathe a sigh of relief. At Star Dental Institute, we perform a variety of services, including your general checkups and cleaning, preventative and restorative treatments, and oral surgeries. Contact us to set up an appointment to get your teeth checked today!


Our experienced and skilled staff is dedicated to serving your denture needs in the most efficient manner possible. In most cases we will complete your procedure and deliver your dentures the same day.


Star Dental Institute
2620 Tenderfoot Hill St #210
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Phone: 719-597-7979
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Monday – Friday (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) Saturday - Sunday (Closed)


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