Lost Then Found
Searching for teeth while searching for gold.
In August 1899, a Seattleite received an unexpected parcel from Alaska. En route to the Klondike, presumably to search for gold, the man had stopped for wood to fuel his steamboat and hung his coat, false teeth in pocket, to chop trees. As he continued up the Yukon, he realized he’d left his belongings behind but decided to steam ahead without them. Lucky for him, a passerby found the chompers along with a name and posted them to the man in Seattle. Back home, sometime later, the man visited the city’s postmaster, according to The Seattle Daily Times, “exhibiting a nicely wrapped package containing a pocket handkerchief and a pair of false teeth…to congratulate that official upon the efficiency of [the mail] service.” —Araz Hachadourian
Taking a Bite Out of the Ballot
These civic leaders cut their teeth in the dental office.
Our fair city has had its share of lawmaking dentists. One, Michelle Caldier, is in the state legislature right now, supporting a bill to protect patients against unfair insurance practices. Another, Curtis L. Erwin, became mayor of Southwest Seattle and worked toward the incorporation of Rainier Valley in 1907. Yet another got elected mayor of Seattle in 1922: Edwin J. Brown’s name (and hairstyle—think Bruno Mars) was familiar to Seattleites years before his candidacy; his illustrated visage often populated newspaper ads touting his dental practice. So, after additional stints as a lawyer—and manager of a barber shop—Brown and his prominent forelock won the election handily with almost 12,000 more votes than his decidedly nondentist opponent. —Manola Secaira
Eternal Struggle of the Spotless Grin
Seattleites war over treating tooth decay with water.
It’s 1968 and Seattle’s average high school graduate has 10 filled teeth, four need-to-be-filled teeth, and a gaping hole from a tooth lost to decay—a yearbook picture nightmare. In comes Mothers for Fluoridation, a pro-fluoride force armed with a 3,000-signature-backed petition to add one part fluoride—a natural element that prevents decay by hardening teeth—to every million parts of water. Though oppositional groups questioned the morality of mass medication, Seattle voters accepted the mineral that year and joined in on what’s considered one of the twentieth century’s greatest public health achievements. But even now the debate persists—some claim fluoride contributes to ADHD and lowered IQs, and today only a little more than half of Washington mixes it into their local water supply. —Isabel Boutiette
Mickey Mouse Goes to the Dentist
To make kids say cheese.
In the 1930s, a determined dental assistant by the name of G. Archanna Morrison set out to improve dentistry’s torturesome reputation with the help of a famous cartoon mouse. Seattleite Carolyn Forester brought Morrison’s diversionary tactics here via a lecture series at the Medical Dental Building. Morrison, who had trained in psychology, taught female hygienists that fears could be traced to childhood memories of scary noises. One solution: projecting images of Mickey Mouse onto the ceilings above child patients, whose mouths (conveniently) gaped at the sight. —Jaime Archer
And the case of the purloined teeth.
Seattle has a long, fraught history with rats. They've closed restaurants, ruined dates, and even, yes, stolen teeth. To wit: One month after getting a new set of grinders in the 1930s, a local man returned to the dentist, hat in hand and sans dentures. “The pack rats got away with them!” he explained, per the Times. The teeth of genus Rattus grow constantly, and they need to gnaw things, such as rubber. Dentures at the time were commonly made of vulcanized rubber. Seattle has since been named the ninth-rattiest city in America, so keep an eye on those faux pearly whites. —Diane Stephani