Making the American Mouth: Dentists and Public Health in the Twentieth Century

By Alyssa Picard | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
“Like a Sugar-Coated Pill”
Defining American Dentistry Abroad

In 1921, an author who identified himself as “A Japanese Office Boy” wrote to the editor of the Dental Digest to ask a series of impertinent questions about the way Americans practiced dentistry. “Mr. Editor of Small but Helpless Magazine of Toothsome Tendencies,” the letter began, “Somewhat Honorable Sir: Recently I have absorbed one complete course, by correspondence, of English decomposition and letter write. … Having recently completed all Money Orders, Mr. Editor, I now possess delicious abilities to express thoughts occurring in brains or elsewhere in approximate English and so similarly to all newly arrived Americans I hasten to news print wherever possible. Thank you. Natural comeback for you of Dental Magazine Editorship is ‘Why pick on me?’” The author, who also referred to himself as “Houseboy,” explained that his most recent jobs had been in dentists’ offices, and that he was confused about what he had witnessed there. For example: “Why will ambidextrous tooth tormentor insist on placing Dams composed of rubber and profane language over helpless teeth when cotton rolls of entire whiteness will accomplish same purpose in many cases in 1/8 elapsed time while also allowing chair victims to completely retain all Christian expressions formerly used during operations of open faced nature? Answers should be tabulated when convenient.” The letter was signed “Yours if necessary, TOGO.”1

The article appeared below an editorial note admonishing: “Even if this hits you (which it is quite apt to do) you will like it. Like a sugar-coated pill it will do you good—pleasantly—(Editor.)”2 The satire of “Togo’s” letter

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