Why Do the Amish Have Their Teeth Pulled Out?

Updated on February 14, 2018
Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

As a world traveler, Tracy is a student of the many cultures of the world. Amish heritage and way of life is one of Tracy's specialties.

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Many people are shocked to learn that the Amish don’t care much for the health and appearance of their teeth. There are a number of Amish reality TV shows that have introduced the concept of having a healthy set of teeth pulled out, even at a young age.

Although this belief may be in dramatic opposition to the modern view of dental care, teeth have little value to the Amish. This is only one of the many cultural differences between the Amish and their modern American neighbors. To begin to understand why the Amish don’t value their teeth, we need to understand a little bit about who the Amish are.

Amish History and Beliefs

The Amish came to the U.S. in the early 18th century to escape the religious persecution they faced in Europe. The Amish strictly adhere to their interpretation of the bible, and follow a life that they believe honors God. According to their belief system, their purpose in life is to please God, and their goal is to ultimately gain entry to heaven. The Amish value family, community and God, and the way in which they live their life reflects these values.

The Amish came to the U.S. to practice their religion and way of life without persecution.
The Amish came to the U.S. to practice their religion and way of life without persecution.

Amish and Religious Freedom

As shocking as it may seem to consider removing a mouth full of healthy teeth, it is important to remember that the U.S. was founded on religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In order for each of us to enjoy our freedoms, we need to respect the freedoms and differences of others, such as the Amish, as well as their choices and way of life. Their choice to remove their teeth is their way of exercising religious freedom.

The Amish and Change

Over the last century, technology and culture has rapidly advanced. During this time, the Amish have made very careful choices as to what advancements they will and will not adopt. Each Amish community makes their own decision when it comes to questions of technology, such as whether or not telephones and automobiles should be allowed. Because this is done by each community, the rules differ from one to the next. Some communities allow bicycles, while others don’t. Some communities allow bicycles with pedals, while others allow bicycles without pedals. As you can see, the decisions can be very specific.

But when it comes to the matter of dental care, all Amish communities think alike. They have decided to reject advancements in dental care, leaving them locked in the 18th century.

God’s Will (Gottes Wille)

The Amish believe that life needs to function by way of God’s Will. For example, if a house burns down, it was God’s Will. It is for this reason why the Amish do not use smoke alarms.

If we apply this belief to teeth, it becomes clearer why the Amish decide to remove their teeth. If a tooth develops a cavity and causes pain, this is God’s Will, and the obvious option is to have it removed. The Amish approach most medical care matters in this way. The beauty of this way of life is that it is simple, as the Amish community member simply needs to accept that whatever happens is God’s Will. There is nothing that can be done about it.

Pulling Teeth

For the Amish, it seems a lot more practical and less expensive to have a tooth removed than to go through the process of saving it. Dentures are more cost effective than lifetime oral care. Having a tooth, a number or teeth, or mouthful of teeth removed is commonplace among the Amish.

The expense of caring for teeth would be considered vain and impractical to the Amish.
The expense of caring for teeth would be considered vain and impractical to the Amish. | Source

While most of us were taught to brush, floss and see our dentist regularly, the Amish will often only see a dentist to have a painful tooth removed, or perhaps all the teeth removed in one fell swoop. Rather than come back again for when the other teeth begin to decay, it is cheaper to have them removed than to care for each one. Dentistry to the Amish is seen as an economical choice, not one of vanity or necessity.

The Amish believe that vanity goes against God. The concern a modern American might feel for the appearance of their teeth is looked down upon in Amish communities. Since the Amish strictly follow the rules of their community, they would almost never consider going against the grain. If following the community is following God’s will, and if one would like to go to heaven, then each person must follow these cultural rules faithfully.

One study found that 1 in 3 Amish brush their teeth daily.
One study found that 1 in 3 Amish brush their teeth daily. | Source

The Amish Often Have Healthier Teeth

It is interesting to note that one study performed by a dentistry professor named Bagramian in 1985 found that the Amish have fewer cavities and lower rates of gum disease compared to the general population. Since the Amish follow a healthy diet and avoid sweet snacks, the occurrence of cavities within their communities is half that of the U.S. population. Also, gum disease was found to be 3.6 times lower when compared to the general population. The study also found that 88.3 percent of Amish people did not floss, and just one in three brushed their teeth daily.

Many are surprised to learn that the Amish people don’t think twice about having a problematic tooth removed, or even a mouthful of healthy teeth extracted. The Amish look at life very differently from the rest of us, and have a very different set of values than most modern people. They view most medical ailments as part of God’s Will, and feel that accepting this is what makes them good Christians. While most American’s would disagree with the decision to have one's teeth removed, they would likely agree that religious freedom, tolerance and respect are fundamental to our nation's foundation.

How do you feel about the Amish choice to have teeth pulled?

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© 2014 Tracy Lynn Conway

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      Val 19 months ago

      I assume the Amish keep their bodies clean, so the mouth and teeth should also be kept clean. Baking soda and even salt or salt water can be used instead of commercial toothpaste. Also tooth picks or small twigs can be used. Teeth are very important for eating as God has provided us. Dentures are man made and should be a last resort usually at old age.

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      JHK655 2 years ago

      I love poll at the end. The only right answer by the way is "I don't care", unless you're Amish of course. You shouldn't feel the need to accept it, and certainly not become upset by it. Whatever they do is their business and everyone else can fuck off with their opinions. lol, ridiculous.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
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      Tracy Lynn Conway 2 years ago from Virginia, USA

      B. Sinacore,

      They use dentures because they consider this a more economical way to go.

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      B. Sinacore 2 years ago

      How do they chew their food with no teeth?

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      John Fisher 3 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

      The fact that the Amish have fewer cavities than the average American population adds even more support to my belief that fluoridated water does more harm than good, and fluoridated toothpastes are just a marketing gimmick for companies like P&G and others to make more money.

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      blue sky mel 3 years ago

      Since we now know the important part healthy teeth play in overall heath, it is time for the Amish to start taking care of their dental hygiene. The attitude that maintaining healthy teeth is just vanity, is incorrect, harmful to innocent children, and is a very lazy, unhealthy, and unsanitary belief. This makes me lose a great deal of the admiration I have always had for the Amish.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
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      Tracy Lynn Conway 3 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Carter,

      You bring up a good point, this planet is filled with many interpretations of what life is and how we should live it, the Amish offer one interpretation among many.

      Best, Tracy

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 3 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Such an interesting topic Tracy I just had to read it..had no idea about this but I guess many native tribes have their own beliefs on how to take care of themselves as well don't they..Voted interesting for sure..cheers

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
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      Tracy Lynn Conway 3 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Eric,

      Yes, I agree with you. Sometimes I find myself staring at a persons teeth when they appear too perfect, because it seems so unatural. Also, when the teeth appear ultra white I find myself focusing only on their teeth. I have also noticed that many dentist don't have perfect looking teeth, that says a lot. Great observation! Thank you.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting. I love to watch old shows and look at their teeth. Nowadays everybody who is anybody has ridiculous looking perfect teeth. Really?

      Great hub!

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
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      Tracy Lynn Conway 3 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Flourish,

      It is shocking! While it makes sense to the Amish it goes against our fundamental philosophy on dental care which is to always try to save a tooth.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Wow, I did not know this! This was enlightening to me. I had seen one lady on Breaking Amish who didn't have her own teeth, but I thought it was an anomaly!

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