"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?"
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.
"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?"
"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.