A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 126: Look Ma, No Teeth

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Over the years, my teeth seemed to deteriorate more and more. Mother always told us kids to brush our teeth, she might as well talk to the wall. By the time we realized how important it was, it was too late. When the teeth started to hurt bad enough, that's when I went to see a dentist. Some got filled, some that were too rotten, got pulled.

On our honeymoon to Canada, I got a toothache again. When I stated my trouble to the purser, he said he would find someone to help me. Who he was I never found out, a doctor? Tooth carpenter? The cook? Or maybe a fiend? He claimed that part of the root of a molar which had been pulled earlier had broken off and stayed in the jaw. Now it was infected. It had to come out. "Sorry, I don't have any ether or any other way to make it painless." "Do what you have to do and get it out." "Open wide, the fun starts now."

I tried to be brave but when he started to dig in the jaw bone where it was hurting already, I got smaller and smaller tried to get through the bottom of the chair seat. No luck. Then sweat started to appear all over my body. Maybe if I got slippery enough I could slide out of the chair and run away. This did not work either, my exit was blocked by the torturer. Finally, I did find a way out: fainting, yes, that did it, but the problem was as soon as I lost consciousness the pain brought me right back to the present. He kept on digging, he said, to get to the bottom of it. How many times I passed out during this ordeal, I didn't know but it was several. All good things come to an end, but all bad things come to an end too. He got it out!

In Welland, Dr. Smelski became our family dentist. He was rough, everyone agreed, but he knew what he was doing and did a good job. If filling was possible he would do it. If it was too late, he yanked the teeth out. Then the steel workers union squeezed dental care for the workers. Right afterwards, the dental fees skyrocketed. Thus we looked for another technician. After trying a couple, we settled for an Italian. He certainly was not money hungry. When he found an infected fang he said, "It's not too bad, we can let it go until next time." "No way, doc. If something needs fixing, do it now."

Then the time came when my top teeth got so rotten, they were beyond repair. This was now in the time when we got OHIP (the Ontario Health Insurance Plan). It didn't cover dentistry, but if the dentist put you in the hospital overnght to pull a certain number of teeth, then it was paid for. So that's what happened. They put me to sleep. When I was not looking, they cleaned out the whole upper jaw of any remaining choppers. When I got home, Ma asked what did they do to me. I said, "Look Ma, no teeth." Ever since then I've been walking around with half a mouth full of plastic. Will this be the end of dealing with the medical profession? I hope so.


Related resources:

Publicly funded dental care far from reality by Dr. Allan Katchky, May 30, 2012. "From a political standpoint, the introduction of publicly funded health care to Ontario in the mid-1960s was somewhat controversial, and was introduced as a pilot project. At its inception, there was discussion about gradually introducing other allied health professions under the OHIP umbrella, including dentistry, optometry and chiropractic ... However, within the first five years of the introduction of OHIP, some political economists, both within and outside of government, had begun to predict that the system as introduced was not sustainable over the long term.

As we all know, the more recent history of OHIP over the past 20 years is one characterized by de-listing of procedures, not adding covered services. The economic reality is that the money for government-funded dental care simply is not there."

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