In the 19th century the state of the nation’s teeth was pretty poor, but who did our ancestors turn to when troubled by toothache? With little in the way of treatment or dental care the only option was to have the offending tooth extracted.
Early extractions were brutal and performed with a tool called a key. Not dissimilar to a door key, this instrument rotated to tightly grip the tooth, damaging gum and bone as it did so and sometimes even breaking the jaw.
There were tooth pullers at most fairs and the blacksmith would also have a go, as would the local wig maker. Towards the end of the century those suffering with toothache might even try the high street pharmacist. A situations vacant advert in the Chemist & Druggist of July 15, 1868 reads – Wanted an active industrious Young Man as Assistant. Must be able to extract teeth. Address stating age, height and salary. However, by then professionally trained dental surgeons had began to appear on the scene.
The first LDS (Licentiate in Dental Surgery) exams were held in 1860 and by 1879 there were 483 qualified dentists on the first official Dentist Register.
In 1875 the Swindon Post Office Directory lists that John Hay of Bath was available every Monday 10 till 4 at his surgery in Bath Road, Swindon, while in 1881 the aptly named Thomas Wrench, a Dentist Graduate of St Thomas’ Hospital, was pulling teeth at Bradbury, Chiseldon.
Long time resident Swindon dentist Frederick Thomas Mallory Cullingford (pictured) was born in Portsea, Hampshire in 1856, the son of chemist, druggist and dentist Thomas Frederick Cullingford and his wife Jane.
Frederick married Caroline Frost, the daughter of a Wootton Bassett butcher in 1879 and by the time of the 1881 census Frederick, Caroline and their nine month old son Frederick Ernest were living at 7 Bath Road. They later moved to premises next door to the Swindon Advertiser building.
Through the 1880s and 1890s Frederick T.M. Cullingford, John Hay and T.W. Wrench were the only Swindon dentists advertising in Kelly’s Trade Directories. By 1898 W.H. Davies, a Licentiate in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, had joined their ranks at 1 Brunswick Terrace. And in New Swindon Alfred Bult Le Verrier had a practice at 38 Regent Street, moving to Westlecott Road by 1901.
By 1907 W.H. H Davies had been joined by Walter Ralph Le Verrier, Alfred’s son, who was practising at 40 Victoria Road. Shipley Slipper was at 15 Bath Road, and Eskell and his partner Fowler were at 18 High Street.
None of Frederick’s eight sons followed him into the dental profession. Frederick Ernest worked as a clerk and was killed in 1918 on active service. Frank became a teacher and William a railway employee while Tom worked as a compositor and John as a butcher. Tom, Frank, James, Reginald, John and Robert all served in the forces and survived the First World War.
The growing Cullingford family
Popular 18th century tooth transplants - but only for the wealthy.
You might also like to read