Paul Revere was an ardent patriot and a skilled artisan who turned to dentistry when times were lean.
That was fortunate for the loved ones of his friend killed in battle.
In 1768, Revere placed an advertisement in the Boston Gazette offering to replace lost front teeth with artificial ones. Two years later, he ran another ad claiming he’d replaced hundreds of teeth. He also boasted he “can fix them as well as any Surgeon-Dentist who ever came from London,” fixing them in such a Manner that they are not only an Ornament, but of real Use in Speaking and Eating.”
Those were rough years in Boston. Merchants, artisans and tradesmen who had prospered during the wartime economy of the French and Indian War were now scrambling. The Stamp Act of 1765 had further depressed commerce in Boston.
Revere in 1768 was 34 with a growing family to support. He owed money, and his creditors tried to attach his house. So he hung out his shingle as a dentist, cleaning teeth and wiring into place false teeth made from ivory or animal teeth. He’d learned how to do it from John Baker, a surgeon-dentist living with a friend.
Revere and Warren
One of Revere’s patients was Dr. Joseph Warren, a close friend who shared his revolutionary affiliations and connections. Warren told Revere the British were probably coming to capture Sam Adams and John Hancock, sending him off on his famous midnight ride.
The British shot and killed Warren during the Battle of Bunker Hill. They then buried him in a mass grave without his uniform or identification.
A few days after the British evacuated Boston in March 1776, Revere, some friends and Warren’s brothers went to the battlefield to look for Warren’s body.
After searching for a while, they found a grave with two unrecognizable bodies. Revere, however, identified one as Warren. He recognized the walrus tooth and the wire he had used to replace a missing tooth.
Warren was given a proper funeral and buried in a marked grave, thanks to Paul Revere, the nation’s first forensic dentist.
This story was updated in 2017.