7/3/13

Amish Best Kept Secret

It's true. They exist!

I first learned about them from my "son" Mosie. He said, "We had our own."

"So what were they like?" I asked.

"They pulled out our teeth."

He was talking about Amish dentists; self-taught on an 8th grade Amish education, and unlicensed. When I first learned of this guarded secret I could hardly believe it. I knew the Swartzentruber Amish - the most punitive and backward - don't teach daily oral hygiene, plus they allow their children to smoke and chew tobacco.

I asked our wonderful son-in-love Harvey, "Did you go to an Amish dentist?"

"Yes. He pulled out my tooth."

"Did he use Novocaine?"

"No."

"It must've hurt Harvey. Did you cry?"

"I wasn't allowed to."

Hmm, I'd heard from other ex-Amish and English, who really know about Amish, that they have their own self-taught doctors and dentists, especially among Old and Swartzentruber Orders.

The day I took 19-year-old Sarah to our dentist - her first experience with a licensed professional - I learned even more! She was talking to our hygienist telling her that the dentist pulled out all her bottom teeth. When the hygienist asked about Novocaine, Sarah confirmed that he gave it to her, which begged the question, Where'd he know to inject it? The hygienist asked if the dentist had any letters after his name or if Sarah called him "doctor" or by his first name. Sarah said everyone called him by his first name and he didn't have any letters after his name.

I was wondering where he obtained the drug, reserved for professionals. Sarah assured me that he works only on Amish, not English. Well of course, I thought, English would report him for practicing without a license. (Tweet that)

And why were all her lower teeth pulled? Because of cavities. Old and Swartzentruber Amish don't correct a cavity, rather the culprit tooth or teeth are simply yanked out.

I also wondered how the Amish dentist, without electricity, sterilizes his tools. Certainly he could not obtain a dental autoclave.

Of all the ex-Amish I know, most have partials or full dentures. Monroe (Sarah's brother) told me their dentist "had a furniture store but Tuesday and Friday he pulled teeth all day."

Since learning this cultural secret, I've looked more closely at Amish and ex-Amish mouths. If the teeth are white and straight; they're probably false. And where do they get their false teeth? From an Amish who makes 'em. OK, I can just imagine a little Amish lady chiseling away at dentures in her kitchen. Self-sufficiency is great . . . but, not when it comes to critical dental and medical fixes.

See ya next week.  ~ Brenda

(c)Copyright 2013, Brenda Nixon.
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Yes, I travel to speak about customs/behaviors of the Amish with emphasis on the Swartzentruber Order. Audiences love my suitcase of authentic Swartzentruber Amish clothes. Let's talk - speaker2parents@ juno.com - put "speaking" in the subject line.

24 comments:

  1. I know many of the Plainest Amish pull their children's teeth once and for all for it will solve all future dental problems. But this practice is so uncalled. I don't know how it is now but back when I was teaching school most never brushed their teeth...

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  2. This is so, so distressing -- and it certainly never shows up in any of the Amish novels you read.

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    1. Thanks Katie & Beth, I appreciate you reading/commenting.

      Katie, I understand that Amish think pulling teeth will "solve all future dental problems." Trouble is; the extreme (often unnecessary) procedure may cause other problems if not performed correctly. As for daily dental care, I've taught some ex-Amish how to brush their teeth as they never received instruction.
      Beth, this and other cultural trends will probably never show up in romanticized novels about the Amish.

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  3. From Migdalia Castillo....

    "Brenda,
    Luved the blog & wanted to comment but am technologically challenged right now. I'm house sitting & mom sitting my 95 year old mom for the next three weeks, & there is no internet. My cell is soooo not cooperating & I can't get my comment to post. So I'm sending it to you. I don't know if there's a way for you to post it, but in any case, wanted to share with you my take on it. As always, thoroughly enjoyed it!

    I had heard of this practice about a year ago and was definitely surprised by it. Not so much that they do it (My dad had all his bottom teeth removed, sans Novacaine, at an early age, around early 1940's.) but by the how they do it & who does it. The fact that a furniture store owner makes dentures is definitely an 'Oh my word!' On the other hand, there are strange dental practices in many places. I've had numerous students from other countries, as young as kindergarten & still with baby teeth, with numerous silver or gold teeth which have been used for cavities & rotten teeth.
    Disturbing to me, yes. To them? No. Different cultures do things differently. To us, strange, bazaar, appaling, call it what you want. To them, normal as gettin outta bed in the mornin. But, it's definitely an eye opener that hopefully helps us understand them better and hopefully continue to grow in that understanding by seeing their perspective.
    Thanks, Brenda, for helping us learn by sharing the true stories & not fiction. God bless you in your work." Migdalia Castillo

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  4. Dental horror stories give me the heebies! I'm not Amish, but our parents took us to a certain dentist because (I would guess) he was cheap. He didn't yank teeth with cavities -- thank goodness! -- but he drilled away without giving us Novocaine or any pain relief at all. When he was done, he'd dart out of the office ahead of us and sit down at the receptionist's desk... because he was the receptionist, too!

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  5. I remember when I was about 10 I had to get 2 of mine pulled, And I tell you its not an experience I would wish on anybody, He was in there pulling and yanking away getting ahould of me gums while another guy held me down, by the time they were done I still had bits and pieces of thooth is both places which he said would work there way out by themself and of course they didn't, since I left the amish I went to a real dentist and he took care of all those little pieces that where in there and no more pain! YAY! by the way when I got my gums yanked on etc. I couldn't eat solid foods for about 2 weeks, spend about a week in bed sick! So Thats just one of my bad memories!

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    1. Our Japanese dentist made loads of mistakes. I can still feel his nicotine-stained fingers in my mouth. When I came to the USA in 1988, a dentist wondered why the dentist in Japan had chosen to pull certain teeth. "My mouth was too small to fit them all in," I explained. The American dentist realized that, but still said he wouldn't have pulled the teeth our dentist had. I hate going to the dentist due to the memories of all the pain from childhood. As for the Amish, I researched a lot about them for my novel, Still Life in Shadows (River North/Moody), so know about their practices with dentistry. What a shame, but not at all surprised. Thanks, Brenda, for revealing the truth here.

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    2. Oh Katie, that's just inhumane, primitive. There's no justification for putting a 10 y/o child through that experience!

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  6. I'm not sure why "English" Christians are so fascinated by "bonnet fiction." Probably because it glamorizes the Amish rather than shining the light of truth on their pagan practices such as "white magic." Keep telling the truth.

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  7. As I'm reading through these various blogs, I'm reminded of how many in our society fall through the cracks. Whether it's people who are ex-Amish or those who are less fortunate and live below the poverty line, there are many who are searching for someone to care and to demonstrate the love of Christ.

    It's not always easy to love. It takes time, commitment, resources that sometimes puts family life on the back burner.

    Thank you Brenda for your writings that help us to better understand our friends who are Amish. Unfortunatly, it would appear they live under the cloak of romantizied pressure, when in reality, there is much more to the story.

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  8. Brenda, this story interested me, because it is something I personally experienced. I remember when I was about 6-7 years old, I went to the doctor, I was very sick, ended up in the hospital. But, the doctor when he looked in my mouth said I had really good teeth.
    Of course, like you said, I was not taught how to take care of them and when I was about 26 years old, I had a bad tooth, it hurt for quite a long time, I ignored it until I could no longer do so. I friend told me I needed to go to the dentist right away. I know this sounds pretty studied, but I had never been to a dentist, no one had ever told me about tooth decay and dental care, so this was a big deal to me. I ended up needing root canal, mu first time to the dentist.
    I went back home some years ago, after many years of not seeing anyone in my family and was surprised how many of my immediate family had only a few teeth left, or as you said, dentures. I asked about this, why don't you go to the dentist, you can save those teeth. Their answer was so simple, but to them it was a matter of fact, they did not even consider the dental programs; Costs to much money. They laughed at the thought of spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on their teeth.
    I also did not learn to brush my teeth as I was growing up. At the moment I do not remember at what age, or how & why I got a tooth brush and started brushing.

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  9. Very interesting!! I love reading your blog Brenda! I worked until recently in a dentist office where about half of the patients were Old order Amish. It is true that most of them have partials and dentures. The vast majority of the amish patients only came in when they were having a tooth ache. Because they had waited too long their only options were to have a root canal, or have the tooth pulled...Most would pick having it pulled. I think there are two things that keep them from coming on a regular basis.....fear..and not wanting, or having the money to spend on dental care. Things may be turning around in our area though as word is spread that modern dentistry does not have to be painful, I noticed that more families were starting to come on a regular basis for cleanings, and the small children are being taught about dental hygiene..

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  10. LOL I'm sorry for laughing... This may be true for the Swartzentruber amish but it most definitely is not true for the rest of the amish. I lived in 4 different amish communities and EVERYONE I know went to an actual dentist. I laughed when you said if you see an amish person with straight white teeth that it must be false teeth. That is so far from the truth that its funny. All the amish I know brush their teeth and go to the dentist just like everyone else. I know. Because I was amish too. I don't know many amish with dentures or partials. Their teeth are naturally healthier because they don't eat as much processed sugary foods like other people do & because they are very clean people.

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  11. Keep on laughing. It IS TRUE for the Swartzentruber Amish. Laughing doesn't nullify the fact.I do know many Swartzies with partials and dentures. and this blog is mostly about Swartzies (read the top description).

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  12. My parents always took us to the dentist and I grew up Amish. We were taught proper hygiene as well as taking care of of our teeth. I was not raised Swartzentruber Amish so I don't know from personal experience any "dentist stories". I do know that some Swartzentruber Amish are taught proper hygiene. It all depends on how each family chooses to live their life.

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  13. I grew up in a good sized old order Amish community. There were to guys that would pull teeth. They both never had any training, but they did use Novocaine. There were people from other communities that would come to get there teeth pulled. We always had to go with horse and buggy because they didn't want the English people to know about it. I got all my upper teeth pulled when I was 16. Most Amish parents don't teach there children to brush there teeth regular. My parents always made me brush mine once a week. There were some that went to a dentist to get there cavities filled, but most of them just went and got there teeth pulled because it was cheaper.

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  14. Thank you dear Marvin!
    For my readers, Marvin is one of "my boys" from the Amish. He's special to me for many reasons & I appreciate him taking time to leave his comments here. At least you know they are authentic since he left OOA (Old Order Amish). I was privileged to host Marvin in my home a couple times weeks after he left his settlement :-)
    Marvin, sorry your teeth were pulled when you were 16-y/o. That's too young & drastic for what could've probably been an easy fix. And, uh, once a day is the minimum for brushing teeth. lol

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  15. I love your blog. This is a cool site and I wanted to post a little note to tell you, good job! Best wishes!!!

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  16. This is a very interesting blog. I think lingual braces are best as these braces are not visible to anyone because they are applied at the back side of the teeth.

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  17. Amish aren't clean. Have you ever stood behind them in line at Wal-Mart? I have Amish neighbors whose Fridge is full of ants. Gross. Their children sell dollar store ingredient cakes on the corner, for ten hours a day, hoping to sell the cheaply made disgusting cakes for ten dollars or more. They also pull their teeth with pliers and their children don't get vaccinated. We live in Hartly which is near Dover, DE.

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    1. Anonymous near Dover, DE. Thanks for your comments. We each have our own experiences, some of my readers only know about the "higher" orders like New & Beachy Amish. These readers, of course, can hardly believe what I share about the Swartzentruber Amish - the "lowest" order.

      BTW, they identify each other as higher or lower, which refers to the type & number of rules.

      My experiences & relationships are mostly with Swartzies. I've had former Old Order Amish tell me that I taught 'em some things about the Swartzentrubers!

      Perhaps in DE, near you, are some lower order Amish who don't wear deodorant or who just came in from a hard day's work on the farm. The New Order Amish I know are clean, hygienic & non-smelling. But, don't trust my observation - I'm hard of smelling! ;-)

      And I did post a blog on August 23, 2013 about Amish children and vaccinations. You might find it interesting & care to leave your comments there, too > http://brendanixononamish.blogspot.com/2013/08/amish-vaccinations-for-kids.html

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  18. I am Amish and I find it a little disheartening about all the dirty comments on the Amish. I don't know a lot about the Swartzentruber Amish, but I would imagine there are also clean people.

    I know the home was a lot cleaner than a lot of non-Amish homes I have been in.

    I am 38 and I have all my original teeth. My dad (66) and mom (62) have there original teeth as well. I have never been to a 'Swartzie' dentist, but I due have a checkup with a regular dentist

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    1. Hi Anonymous,
      I find it interesting that, as Amish, you're reading/commenting on my blog. You are welcome to share your perspective as this blog exists to help educate English about the variety of Amish, with emphasis on Swartzentruber. I don't think there are "all the dirty comments" here, only one and everyone has a right to share their experiences. Many of these comments come from those who've left their settlement.
      Not knowing which order you are, I'd say you were blessed to have parents who took you for regular checkups with a licensed dentist. :-)

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  19. Just met a sweet Swartzentruber, Benji, the other day. Despite his 30-young years, he had missing teeth.

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