Wyoming is full of people who love to meet nature on its own terms and improvise their way through tricky situations.
But a Canadian woodsman once took those values to another level. Back in the 1960s, Francis Wharton shot a deer, made dentures out of the deer’s teeth, and then ate the deer with its own teeth.
Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich of Pinedale told Cowboy State Daily that’s an outrageously jaw-dropping and inspirational example.
“It’s badass and an awesome example of true self-reliance,” he said of Wharton’s cross-species self-dentistry.
Dental professional Dr. Casey Jurczewsky of Laramie said that Wharton’s accomplishment is admirable, but he wouldn’t advise trying it at home.
“While it’s really cool, there is risk of damaging your existing teeth or the structure of your jaw,” said Jurczewsky, who practices at Albany County Family Dentistry.
Plastic And Household Cement
Wharton lived in the remote Little Fort area of British Columbia and was known to be resourceful and fiercely independent.
So, after he lost enough of his upper teeth to require dentures, he wasn’t about to pay for a set. He decided to make his own.
After shooting a deer, he filed down some of the animal’s teeth and mounted them into a base of faux wood made from plastic. He used “household cement” to secure the creation into his mouth.
A contemporary article about Wharton described his makeshift dentures as “loose, dark and dirty.”
While perhaps not ascetically appealing, they apparently functioned well enough, allowing the stubborn woodsman to eat meat from the slain deer by chewing it up with the unfortunate critter’s own teeth.
People Have Always Improvised
Jurczewsky said that making makeshift dental inserts or dentures out of hijacked teeth is nothing new.
Going as far back as ancient Egypt, there’s evidence that “people would make false teeth out of the teeth of animals, or even the teeth of other people,” he said. “We’ve been doing that for thousands of years as a species.”
Even so, he advises against taking Wharton’s approach when modern dentistry is an option.
“In the case of making a set of dentures, we really have to pay special attention to the distribution of the bite force. Poorly distributed bite force can damage the structure of the jaw or the gums,” he said.
He’s never seen anything as drastic as somebody trying to make their own dentures from the teeth of a big game animal he shot. But his office has had cases of people seeking help after trying such things as pulling their own teeth.
Attempting self-dentistry carries the risk of oral damage, infection or other complications, he said.
“There’s a reason they call us ‘doctors,’” Jurczewsky said. “Dentistry is far more complicated than people might realize.”
New Year’s Resolution
Nevertheless, Ulrich said the tale of Wharton eating deer meat with its own deer-tooth dentures is a stunning tale of “life coming full circle.”
He’s seen Wyomingites pull off some amazing things in the outdoors, but nothing on Wharton’s level.
“What could be comparable, that I’ve hear of? I can’t even think of anything,” Ulrich said.
And while he still plans on going to the dentist for any teeth troubles, Ulrich said he hopes to emulate Wharton’s spirit of boldness and ingenuity.
“My New Year’s resolution this year is to be more like that guy,” he said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.