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.
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.
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.
For some Amish groups, 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.
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.
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.
© 2014 Tracy Lynn Conway
suzanne maclaren on July 18, 2020:
I work in the health care sector in Alberta, Canada, and it is common practice for Hutterites to have all their teeth pulled and get dentures as young adults. This was shared with me by a young Hutterite woman who was a patient of mine. Other religious groups have the same practice.
Weaver on July 08, 2020:
I'm Mennonite with Amish neighbors and what you say is mostly false ! So please don't post things until you really really know the difference between Amish groups!!
John Gabriel on July 08, 2020:
They are incorrigibly stupid to remove healthy teeth.
But this is what religion does to people - it clouds their ability to think properly.
Religion is poison. The bible is a worthless piece of crap.
Mo on June 28, 2020:
I think Amish are good and nice people,on this world with a lot of disasters they live in peace and love
Henry Eicher on May 30, 2020:
I grew up in an Amish community and have always been around the Amish. I have many Amish relatives. I have never heard or seen anything of this nature occuring. My mother always brushed her teeth and taught us to, as well. What you're reporting may be a localized event only occurring in a certain group of Amish. The Amish to an outsider all look alike. But they have wide and varying beliefs about how to live and care for themselves. Please don't lump an observation in one Amish settlement on all the Amish settlements.
Myra Anderson on May 27, 2020:
The thought is upsetting but I see their point of view and it is a free country so it is their choice!
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on May 08, 2020:
Hi, Chris, I am glad to hear that your Amish neighbor and his friends and family adhere to modern dental health practices, but based on broad statistical research, most Amish don't.
It can be hard to accept the idea that other groups of people can live in ways that differ so greatly from our own accepted norms.
This is one of the things I have found to be so fascinating about studying the Amish and other cultures, which is that, we as humans have an almost infinitesimal way of interpreting what life is all about.
While writing this and other articles about the Amish, I immersed myself so deeply in the topic, that my friends and family thought I might become Amish myself, but it was simply my curiosity that kept me intrigued.
Yes, I agree with you, it is their way. I can't help but hear Thomas Jefferson's "We hold these truths to be self evident..." quote.
The U.S.A. is founded on these freedoms and in general all cultures have their own strengths and weaknesses. This can be a controversial topic as you may have noticed in the comments of this article.
Chandrabee, I understand where you are coming from, but dentures don't always look good. They function, yes, but are still a substitute for healthy teeth. They are needed for eating, and eating is a necessity. Plus, when dentures are removed for cleaning, the face hollows out. You may recall images of George Washington, who had an affinity for sweets and lost his teeth prematurely causing his face to take on a new shape.
Chris on May 05, 2020:
Wow, people will write anything about The Amish on the internet. I will say this isn’t true at all. I showed this to my Amish neighbor and what this said isn’t true at all.
joe on April 26, 2020:
It think this is akin to circumsision of female genitalia. If an adult is making this decision for themselves, that's one thing. But, making that decision for a child violates that child's right to their own body. Let each person make that sort of decision for themselves when they reach the age of reason. Basically we have a crime of mutilation (a procedure that cannot be reversed). What if my religious belief was to permanently rip out everyone's finger nails. After all, finger nails are not absolutely necessary. What if my religious belief was to cover a baby in permanent tattoos to ward of demons. That's not a debilitating procedure...so heck....why not? Any permanent change to the body that is not life threatening should be made for one's self. This respect for human rights is basically what all Americans are privy to under Federal and State laws. Why are we permitting citizens of America (Amish) the right to do this act of mutilation? We already condemn religious groups who severely flog their children, perform obscene sexual acts and other troubling practices. How is this really different other than degree of traumatization? I would think having your teeth pulled would be a very traumatic experience for any child (even Amish children). No doubt that intervention is necessary. Sorry, this is just common sense.
Armanium.firstname.lastname@example.org on April 17, 2020:
Evry part of yourbody is God's presnt especially usful parts.I love You.
R on April 16, 2020:
It’s there way I won’t judge them
ScrewAmishRules on March 15, 2020:
They remove the teeth of girls who report sexual abuse to outside authorities You are sick if this is “religious freedom” and you need to seek help immediately
Doug on March 14, 2020:
This article is complete nonsense. I don't know where they got their information, but I'm friends with some plain volk and they go to the dentist. They will have teeth pulled but the pulling healthy teeth or for kids is ludicrous
Ben ludwig on February 22, 2020:
The body is the temple of Christ and must be scrupulously cared for
chandrabee on February 21, 2020:
Having dentures means showing off perfect teeth. Wouldn't that be ostentatious. Even FALSE ostentatious?
Santosh Singh on February 10, 2020:
Forcibly Pulling out teeth of children is definitely a bad choice and condemnable act. Religious freedom cant be based on cruelty. Government must intervene into it. Yes once they grow it is upto them to decide to pull out their teeth, hair whatever they like.
Rhonda on February 08, 2020:
I had to laugh when I read the last two paragraphs. Of course they have fewer cavities, don't brush every day, and don't floss. That would tend to be true, since they don't have teeth!
Mr. A on February 08, 2020:
I don’t find a problem with pulling a problematic tooth out. I would too if I could not afford a filling. It’s still expensive around 400 to extract a tooth. Still much cheaper than a root canal. I do understand that they are saving their child the trouble of going through the pain of having a cavity in the future. As cavities are only noticed after sensitivity or pain. But still that doesn’t amount to the amount of pain you would go through pulling all your teeth out especially at a young age where the child doesn’t understand why they are suffering. I feel better hygiene would be the more affective way. I guess they would have to invest into dental floss and that is a modern convenience. So that goes against the religion? I mean the Egyptians didn’t pull their children’s teeth out because of fear of cavities actually they had really good hygiene and they lived in prehistoric civilization time. so how now in the 19th or the 21st century these Amish haven’t figured out how to keep their teeth I feel it’s kind of more of being naïve and ignorant then being faithful to god.
Earl on January 21, 2020:
I was just having lunch at Wendy's and there was an Young Amish couple doing the same with their infant. I was making the baby smile, even the young woman did too, but quickly took it back when she saw I noticed....then when they left I glanced back to see her rolling a full set of dentures back into her mouth. I could not believe such a young girl could be without all of her teeth...this is what prompted me to look this up. I have a great respect for them, they are really committed and kind people. It makes sense to pull the problem teeth, but such a shame for them to pull good teeth at such a young age.
s paris on September 18, 2019:
Adults can do what they want. i have read that Amish pull the teeth out of kids that are 13 and 14. That seems wrong to me. Children can not really consent to this practice is a meaningful way,
Dave chosewood on February 27, 2019:
I have noticed a lot of them wearing eyeglasses. By the same logic wouldn't poor eyesight also be God's will? Or is it only selective? Have also seen them operating combustible farm tractors and using them pretty much like cars to go to and fro. Hmm.
Dave chosewood on February 19, 2019:
joseph gabello on November 28, 2018:
I think the amish people, on a whole,are very nice people. as far as it goes,,I hope they take care of their body better than their teeth. If I had to be in there co. I think they would have a clean and good appearance. No pun attended. I think it would be good for heir health the, the choice is also mine!
Val on August 01, 2016:
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.
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on November 23, 2015:
They use dentures because they consider this a more economical way to go.
B. Sinacore on August 03, 2015:
How do they chew their food with no teeth?
John Fisher from Easton, Pennsylvania on August 20, 2014:
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.
blue sky mel on May 10, 2014:
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 (author) from Virginia, USA on April 16, 2014:
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.
Mary from Cronulla NSW on April 02, 2014:
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 (author) from Virginia, USA on March 29, 2014:
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.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 28, 2014:
Very interesting. I love to watch old shows and look at their teeth. Nowadays everybody who is anybody has ridiculous looking perfect teeth. Really?
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on March 28, 2014:
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 from USA on March 28, 2014:
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!