Dental Health

Pulling his personal tooth with a pair of pliers, began a profession

Imagine having such a terrible toothache and no access to a dentist that you take a pair of pliers and pull your own tooth. Meet Chester Moody.

It’s 1958 in the Jim Crow South: Lorman, Mississippi to be precise. He is 17 years old, attending Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, a historically black college, and he is in excruciating pain.  At the administration office, he is told it will be 21 days before a dentist visits the college, and Black students can’t leave campus.

So young Chester Moody broke into the campus woodshop, borrowed a pair of pliers, and performed his own extraction.

“It took me a while to get the courage, but the moment I clamped the pliers around that molar, the pain went away,” recalls Moody, 84, from his dental lab on the 16th floor of the downtown Sutter Street Medical/Dental Building, where he fabricates dental prosthetics–dentures, implants, and more. “I now know that it was the gas escaping, but I couldn’t walk around with pliers coming out of my mouth. I was screwing up my courage to pull, and suddenly there was a snap and the top part of the tooth was gone! Oh, the smell was terrible but the relief was instant.”

Born in 1939 in Coffeeville, Mississippi,  Moody studied to be a teacher. “In those days in the South, there were two professions open to Black men, you could be a preacher or a teacher.”

He planned to teach industrial arts because, hey, he could sure wield those pliers. 

Dentistry had never entered his mind. 

Now, in life, there are all kinds of luck: dumb luck and blind luck, bad luck and good luck and hard luck. In Chester Moody’s life, three lucky breaks changed his destiny. 

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