My Amish Dental Lab Visit

"Want to go with me to the lady's house?" Sarah asked me.

"What lady?" I replied.

"The one who makes teeth."

Finally . . . a first-hand view of an Amish dental lab. I've often heard about these services within the self-sufficient Amish communities. In my post Amish Best Kept Secret I wrote about their own (unlicensed) dentists but now I actually get to see where the partials and dentures are crafted. What a cultural experience!

Sarah drove for about an hour, winding through curvy two-lane country roads into the small Amish-saturated tourist town of Berlin, Ohio. It's green rolling hills scattered with Holstein and Jersey cows are alluring eye candy to this city gal. Sarah turned from its main road down onto a narrow, unnamed, single-lane path. On the left stood a small ranch-style house. Sarah pulled into the driveway and turned off the engine.

"Go to the back and down the stairs," shouted a petite, older Amish woman from her front door. She stood eyeing both of us, watching as we climbed out of the car and began our trek to the back stairs.

We walked into a basement -- finished, decorated, and transformed to contain dental supplies, examples of teeth, and a sewing business. Clothes hung on an indoor clothesline beside her washing machine.

"Sit over there," the Amish lady told me pointing to a sofa. Then turning to Sarah, she commented, "You brought someone with you."

I think it was obvious I was English. Perhaps she knew Sarah was ex-Amish.

"Sit down," she kindly instructed Sarah. Down Sarah plopped onto a straight-back chair positioned next to the lady's work station. Then the woman pulled out her dental gel and several molds from a drawer. She quickly rinsed off her hands and the molds. No gloves. No gown. Wearing her street clothes and the same apron she greeted us in, she placed a couple empty molds onto Sarah's lower gums.

Finding the best fit, she removed a form out of Sarah's mouth. I watched as she took something akin to an artist's knife and scooped gel from a large bucket. Then she filled the empty mold to capacity.

We exchanged pleasantries and I threw my ravenous curiosity a bone by asking, "How long have you been making teeth?"

"About a year. But it seems longer."

"Who trained you?"

"Another lady who makes teeth."

"What order are you?"

"Old Order."

I had more questions to ask but, keeping quiet and observing would be my best teacher. And based on her comment about Sarah bringing someone, I wasn't sure I was welcomed.

Sarah patiently sat while the lady placed the form filled with quick-setting dental gel on her lower gums.

Within minutes the gel set. The lady pulled it off Sarah's gums with a sound like a foot pulling out of mud. Then she walked over to her work counter, took a paring knife from a drawer, pulled over a trash can and whittled off excess gel into the awaiting can. She repeatedly tried the denture form onto Sarah's lower gums, trimming where needed to insure a good fit.

"How does that feel?" she asked Sarah.

"Pretty good."

"Now let's choose a color," she said handing Sarah a pallet of teeth shades. "Do you want very white or a color to match your upper partial?"

Sarah invited me to look at the various shades of white. "I think you'd want a color to match your upper teeth and partial." I offered.

After Sarah picked a shade and showed it to her denture-maker, the Amish lady asked, "Now what's your name?"

"Sarah _____."

"You can pay in cash. And I can mail your teeth."

"How much do people usually pay?" inquired Sarah.

"Anywhere from 150 to 200 dollars."

Sarah dutifully pulled cash from her purse and laid it on the table. She wrote out her address for the lady to mail the final product. Then we walked out of the basement, hiked up the steps, and climbed in the car.

It's not illegal to make teeth. With a daughter who is a RN and knowing her years of training to work on the human body, I'm concerned about hygiene. Oral education. Proper fit. Potential abscesses.

I also have concerns about cash payment. No patient records. No accountability.

Question: What do you think of Amish making their own dentures? Leave your comments below.

(c)Copyright, 2014, Brenda Nixon.


  1. This is so gross! I'm so thankful that even though we grew up Amish our parents were concerned about our dental health, and didn't trust "homemade" dentistry. It's bad enough having someone professional poking around in my mouth, there's no way I'd want anyone else trying to do something with my teeth!

    1. Joyful - thanks for reading my blog & leaving your valued comments. I've always tried to remind readers that my experiences & relationships are with Swartzies. Occasionally I blog about someone who "jumped the fence" from Old Order.
      It's good that you share about your parents tending to your dental health as it shows there are many different Amish - orders - settlements - families. As a parent, I always took my daughters to a licensed dentist but, alas, they still aren't thrilled with someone "poking around" in their mouth - lol.

  2. My parents were the same way, didn't let any Amish person touch our teeth even though they are Amish. This about makes me gag.

  3. Even though I was born and raised Amish until I was 37, I would have never gone to an Amish dental lab like this. I really find it hard to believe that it is legal.

    1. Anonymous & Lester, thank you both for your comments and perspective.

  4. Aside from the lady failing to soap-scrub her hands and/or wear disposable gloves, I'm not clear about what the problem is. The desirableness of this dental lab depends on how well the end product works.

  5. Seems to me this might be quicker and cheaper, as long as it works well what's the big deal.

  6. Agreed Beca, it is quicker and cheaper. Even a tad more personal than some third party lab your dentists uses. But what about taking a patient's history & physical, or knowing about proper dental care, or hygiene, or follow up care? Those things are concerning to me.

  7. I think that is a great cultural study of dentistry. I mean, I am familiar with how the dentures are used, as well as with the Amish culture. It’s interesting how they also try to incorporate their culture and practices to medical practices, like dentistry. Thanks for sharing!

    Jan Perkins @ Alta Sky Dental

  8. It IS a cultural study. Although I neither romanticized nor criticized the Amish when several runaways entered my life in 2009, I've been amazed at the info I've learned about this complex American subculture.

  9. I'm curious about where the Amish go to have their teeth extracted. I'm hoping they would go to a licensed dentist or oral surgeon.

    Dola Rotter

    1. If you read some of the previous comments, Dola, you'll see different orders use different dental practices. Among the Swartzentruber Order usually an Amishman within the settlement provides these services, to other Amish, in his shop or home.

  10. It's really of utmost important for us to look for a dentist who is reliable, licensed and well experienced. It is both for health and hygienic purposes that we are assured of those, so that we are secured with whatever procedure they perform inside our mouths. Also, looking for the right dentist for you will give you a higher satisfaction about your concerns with your oral health. In any way, thanks for sharing that, Brenda! All the best to you! :)

    Weston Wadlington @ Peak Family Dentistry

  11. Though I am not Amish, I went to what might be the same place to get dentures (close to Berlin). I cannot afford the $3,000 I would need to pay for dentures elsewhere and for less than $500 that Amish woman made me dentures. I do taxi-work and my Amish customers told me about her. She gets her supplies & equipment from the SAME companies that supply the dentists. The top one did not fit right but she was very kind about making adjustments and it ended up fitting better than the one I had bought from a trained dentist 15 or so years before. That woman told me she does this partly as a service to anyone who can't afford a dentist or does not want to go to one and she makes a small amount of pocket money after her supplies are figured off. Some people pay more then the suggested "donation" but she has made them for no cost for those who can't afford anything. I know what you mean about gloves & gown but I still felt I was treated with courtesy and skill. No accountability? Maybe, but you are doing this knowing this woman is doing her best and trying to help others. I draw the line at not going to a dentist for work on the teeth itself --- that gets into dangerous stuff -- but if someone wants an affordable denture, and is willing to trust a self-taught maker, go for it. What burns me is the fact that at her prices she is STILL making a bit extra!!! How come the dentists charge so much!