Do the Amish have their own dentists? Well, not in the sense of the certified, licensed professionals that you think of when you think “dentist”.
But they do have people who provide basic dental services in some communities. This basically boils down to pulling teeth – both the ones you can see, and wisdom teeth – and some who make dentures to replace those pulled teeth.
Since Amish generally only go through eight grades of formal education, there is no pathway for Amish to become dentists, which requires higher institutional learning.
However, there is a definite need in many Amish communities for tooth-pulling services (some might say the greater need in some communities is for better dental hygiene, but I’ll leave that topic alone for now). Even quite young people end up having their teeth pulled and replaced with dentures.
Now I don’t want to give the impression that all Amish are getting their teeth pulled, or not brushing regularly and so on. Some, if not many Amish people of course do maintain good dental hygiene and go to “regular” dentists for modern dental care. Some even get primarily cosmetic treatments, like braces.
However, in certain communities, removing teeth (and avoiding expensive modern dental care) and then replacing them with dentures is seen as a more affordable and practical approach to things, when it comes to the pearly (or not-so-pearly) whites.
Examples of Amish dental work
Another question: Do Amish dentists only pull, for lack of a better word, rotten teeth? Well, maybe not always.
This aspect of life in some Amish communities got a lot of attention following an episode of the program “Breaking Amish” some years ago. In one episode, Rebecca, a young woman in her early 20s, shocked viewers by removing a full set of dentures from her mouth. Her teeth had all been pulled at age 19.
This was described as “Amish tradition”.
In the video below I share several accounts describing the work of Amish dentists. Rich Stevick describes his encounters (strictly as an observer) with Amish dentists. Other readers also share their experiences, including one who once drove taxi for Swartzentruber Amish in Ohio. My impression is that their services are generally quickly and effectively performed, and they are valued in their communities.
I include one of my own accounts, which I heard firsthand on a visit to Pennsylvania. The son of a friend visited a local dentist in the community. This was not something he does regularly; in fact, it was the first time. And on telling the story you could tell he thought it was a wild experience. He passed on getting a wisdom tooth taken out – but did get a non-wisdom tooth removed, parting with about $20 for the service.
Other things to know about Amish dentistry:
- Amish dentists may or may not provide painkiller (and when they do, it may or may not come in a dose suitable to actually kill the pain)
- This is gray area stuff. Some Amish have faced legal trouble and fines and jail time over their dentistry practice
- Due to it being gray area, you’re not going to see Amish dentists hanging advertisement signs at the end of their lanes
- They are apt to only serve people from within the Amish community (though not necessarily always the case), and generally take “donations” or “contributions” in lieu of an official fee
Check out the video here for more on Amish dentists. Runtime: 6:16.