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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
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The Dentist, the Doctor and the Denture

Sep 23, 2014

By Dean George

Since the 14-year run of CBS’s popular television series CSI: Criminal Scene Investigations, public interest in forensics has skyrocketed.  Even the original show’s spinoffs have had spinoffs.

I figure it’s just a matter of time before America is tuning in every week to CSI: Mayberry, where Sheriff Andy Taylor’s grandson solves the whodunit as to who killed Floyd the barber’s great nephew. Not to mention other high profile causes of death in the crime-infested North Carolina woods between Raleigh and Mount Pilot.

As a devoted non-devotee of graphic autopsies, accident reconstructions and more DNA swabs than the Centers for Disease and Control lose in a year,  I proudly count myself as one of 20 people in America that has never watched an episode and has no intention of doing so.

It’s not that I think the show is lame, but in the oft-quoted words of President H.W. Bush, “It wouldn’t be prudent” to watch since I get nauseous spelling “formaldehyde.” Or break out in a cold sweat when recalling high school biology class and the dissection of Peeves the frog.

But enough about my pet Peeves; let’s chat about forensic dentistry. How many readers would guess the historic time frame when dental forensics was first used in America to identify a body? Was it:

a) Before World War I
b) Before the Civil War
c) Before Dolly Madison baked her famous Zingers at President Madison’s second inauguration
d) Before Harry Met Sally

If you correctly guessed none of the above, you are smarter than 64% of people who can’t name the three branches of the federal government – which isn’t saying much since even Peeves could croak out one of the three.

But I digress. Next time you visit your dentist, ask them if they know the name of the dentist that performed America’s first dental forensic exam by identifying a deceased Revolutionary War hero by his dentures. The deceased was Dr. Joseph Warren, otherwise known as The Hero of Bunker Hill. The dentist that identified Warren was…well, more on that shortly.

The Hero of Bunker Hill

The Back Story

In April, 1775 Dr. Warren needed to warn his friend Samuel Adams and future Declaration of Independence signer John Hancock that the British Crown had put a price on their heads. In an effort to alert them Dr. Warren dispatched his friends Paul Revere and William Dawes April 18 to warn Hancock and Adams that British soldiers were bound for their hideaway in Lexington, Massachusetts.

When news of the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord later reached Dr. Warren, he spent the next six weeks prepping the militia for the inevitable battle to come. He was named second general in command of the Massachusetts militia for his efforts, but insisted on fighting shoulder to shoulder on the battle line as a private with his men.

After twice repulsing British assaults on their hilltop position, the colonial militia was forced to surrender after running out of ammunition. When leaving his militia position, Dr. Warren was struck in the forehead by a musket ball and killed immediately. It wasn't until nine months later after George Washington’s army regained Boston that Warren’s friend Paul Revere could lead the search for Warren’s body in the common grave where he’d been laid by the British.

Warren’s dentist was able to identify the doctor’s remains by the denture he’d made for him the year before. The doctor was posthumously hailed a hero and his body was brought to Boston with full honors.

Paul Revere the Dentist

The Rest of the Story

Dr. Warren’s dentist was the consummate multitasker. After his father died when he was just 19, Warren’s friend took over his father’s goldsmith business and also expanded into silversmithing and copper engraving to support his mother and siblings. Three years later he had his own family to care for, eventually fathering eight children.

From 1768 to 1775 he took up dentistry to help provide for his expanded family. In addition to cleaning teeth he also crafted dentures carved from walrus ivory or animal teeth. When his first wife died unexpectedly in 1773, he remarried and fathered eight more children

Once the Revolutionary War began the part-time dentist and full-time patriot manufactured gun powder and cannon for Washington’s Army, printed America’s first currency and commanded the protection of Boston Harbor.

After the War he opened the country’s first copper-rolling mill, ran a hardware store and later a foundry.  He worked until the age of 76 in 1811, and lived another seven years before his death in 1818.

All those accomplishments notwithstanding, this multitalented colonialist and part-time dentist is best known for a midnight horse ride throughout the Massachusetts countryside immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…”

Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk. When it comes to dental plans that can save you money, see for yourself that we don’t horse around by clicking here. For more dental swashbuckling adventures follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC  

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