The North Carolina Collection clipping files continue to turn up gems. I just found an article filed under “tooth-jumping.” I thought at first it referred to some primitive sport, and a not very difficult one at that — how hard can it be to jump over a tooth? “Jumping” a tooth, it turns out, was a term used in the North Carolina mountains for a quick and (hopefully) painless extraction.
The article is from John Parris’s “Roaming the Mountains” column in the Asheville Citizen-Times, May 23, 1992. Tooth-jumping dates from the days when anaesthetics were either too expensive or nonexistent and the most sought after quality in a dentist or a surgeon was speed. John Parris writes, “To jump a tooth . . . the chisel was placed against the ridge of the tooth, just under the edge of the gum, and given a quick but hard lick with the hammer.” Ouch.
Parris quotes his grandfather, who remembered the practice well: “‘Uncle Eli always said it was a heap sight easier to get rid of a tooth with a hammer an’ chisel than with a pair of nippers. He said it took a lot of wrestlin’ to get a tooth out with nippers and give a feller a lot more pain. He never used a pair of nippers in his life. He stuck to chisel and hammer. And he was might good with ‘em. Why, he could jump a dozen teeth while a feller with nippers was strugglin’ to get one out.’”
As fun as that sounds, I don’t think I’m ready to give up my dental plan just yet.