Crusading Against The City’s “Unethical” Dentists

What’s an unethical dentist?

The unethical dentists at present may be roughly divided into three groups, the first of which may be more technically than actually unethical. Because the New York State laws require more of a general education preceding the dental studies than is demanded elsewhere, some perfectly reputable graduates of schools outside the State find themselves unable to meet the Regents’ requirements. While it is of course illegal for a man in that position to practice in this city, still some of the men under this heading are good and capable dentists even if they can’t pass in German or algebra.

Next comes the foreign offenders, a large group, working chiefly among their own countrymen and consequently not easily to be detected. In Russia, students and professionals are allowed greater freedom in their comings and goings than the ordinary mortal, so that many young men and women avail themselves of this opportunity, although they may not intend to follow the profession in after life.

The dentistry course is the easiest in this direction. Opportunity to practice, though, is rather meagre, for in the country regions of that land of distress the village blacksmith is said to be frequently the sole representative of dental science.

Should the Russian emigrate to this country, however, he immediately finds out that dentistry here is a remunerative occupation and his Russian diploma looks sufficiently impressive to those of his patients who know enough to ask for one…

But while the unlicensed and unregistered foreigners frequently do individual harm they seldom descend to anything like the wholesale bungling and swindling perpetrated by some of the large “parlors.” Under the laws a man who hasn’t the slightest knowledge of the profession can open a parlor providing he hires duly licensed assistants. Sometimes he does, and in this case the men will be either young graduates trying to save enough money to set up in business themselves, or older men, who for some reason or other have not made a success of their practice. The hours are long, many times including night work, and the pay sometimes runs as low as $20 a week, so that this sort of employment has little to offer the competent or ambitious…

Men in no wise connected with the science of dentistry start offices purely as a commercial venture, and until recently these have been veritable silver mines. Sometimes one man owns a string of them… A clear proof of the prosperity of these places has been the cheerfulness with which the old offenders have paid repeated fines of $300 or $500, only to open again in another location or under another name.

For comparison, see Wikipedia’s entry on modern street dentistry, and also read about one of the most notorious street dentists of the early 1900s, Edgar “Painless” Parker.

CRUSADING AGAINST THE CITY’S “UNETHICAL” DENTISTS: The Day of the Bargain Dental Parlor Where Patients Were Maltreated and Fleeced Is Passing. (PDF)

From September 18, 1910

One response to “Crusading Against The City’s “Unethical” Dentists”

  1. Well, after this definition there doesn’t seem to be that much maltreatment and fleecing 🙂

    What I stumbled over is this sentence: “Should the Russian emigrate to this country, however…”
    This to me sounds rascist. Is this just my modern view and I’m making a fuss about nothing? Does this type of language occur every so often in these old articles?


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