Paul Revere: Patriot, Silversmith, Dentist

Paul Revere: patriot, silversmith, dentist. Revere is best known as the galloping rider who rode through Boston late on the eve of April 18th, 1775, to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the approaching British Army. The British were headed to the armory at Lexington with the intention of confiscating its store of ball and gunpowder, which would prevent the colonists of protecting themselves.  By warning the local militia, Paul Revere set the American Revolution into motion. Paul Revere was a famous patriot and also a skilled silversmith who turned to dentistry when times were tough.

Revere’s family owned a silver shop that he eventually took over. His shop produced items such as tea pots, silver ware, and silver goblets. However, as the tension between Britain and the American colonies increased, his business began to suffer. Before joining the war effort, he tried out a number of professions in order to make ends meet.

Revere in 1768 was 34 with a growing family to support. He was in debt, and in need of additional income. 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 in a friend’s house. His skill in metallurgy also allowed him to create dentures.

The standard of dental education in Revere’s life was obviously more lax than today, as most dentists, like Dr. Marc Vance in Birmingham, AL, must undergo at least eight years of school before practicing dentistry.

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.”

Paul Revere used these dental extractors shown below for tooth extraction while practicing dentistry in Boston, Mass. from 1768-1775.

Paul Revere Dental Tools
Left: Paul Revere portrait; Right: Revere’s dental tools

One of Revere’s patients was Dr. Joseph Warren, a close friend who shared his revolutionary affiliations and connections. It was Warren who told Revere the British were probably coming to capture Sam Adams and John Hancock, sending him off on his famous midnight ride.

Warren was shot and killed during the Battle of Bunker Hill. The British buried him in disgrace: 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. They found a grave with two unrecognizable bodies. Revere identified one as Warren by recognizing the dental work he had performed for him.

Warren was given a proper funeral and buried in a marked grave. This made Paul Revere America’s first forensic dentist!


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