The dentist’s office, with its opulently furnished waiting room, depicts the Victorian trend in dental care. The dental equipment was used by Dr. McKenna to treat patients of the Breckenridge area, and is estimated to be more than 100 years old.
A Denver Post article “Painless Parker” of October 29, 1950 stated, “Dentistry was not generally recognized as a separate profession when the first gold seekers settled in the mouth of Cherry Creek in 1858.” This was another service performed by the local doctor. He would pull teeth and give cursory dental care to the patient. Displayed is a crude, well- worn dental chair with a foot operated drill at its side. Just the idea of having a tooth drilled with this slow piece of equipment, which did more grinding than drilling, makes one shudder. Crude drills, files, forceps, small lances and other items can be seen spread out on tables and counter tops. The tall wooden cabinet with its counter top and drawers for instruments, is quite similar to the ones used in the dental office today. Other instruments are placed in a mahogany box lined with green velvet resting on a table.
Pulling teeth was done with a “turn-key”, actually a doctor’s tool, and was an extremely painful way to extract teeth. The patient was given no anesthetic. No wonder it was common practice for those people with a toothache to fortify themselves with a stiff drink of whiskey, before having the “Doc” work on their teeth. In many of the mining camps, the patient brought his own gold or silver to the doctor for filling his teeth. A very convenient arrangement! Fortunately, the dental profession has made great strides since the 1800’s.