This has happened before, of course, since I am a pretty old guy with lots of silver fillings in my teeth - the result of a sweet-laden and mis-brushed/flossed youth. Every time I go in for a cleaning, the dentist comes by to say hello and pick at the fillings, hoping to shake one loose and create another earning opportunity for the office.
My father decided as a young man (I don't know what age he was - perhaps under age 30) that he wanted nothing to do with future tooth problems. He had a dentist remove all of his teeth and replace them with full dentures. His sister claimed that this was done without anesthesia, which I cannot imagine! I never knew this as a boy, it was only until I met my Aunts and Uncle in the 1960's that I was told. I do recall seeing dentures in a glass from time to time but I don't recall seeing my father without his teeth installed, ever.
My mind wandered while I was staring at the dentist's bright light (even with the fashion dark glasses they gave me - they fold in the middle!) and I wondered what dentistry in colonial times might have been like. I Googled [dentistry colonial teeth] and was rewarded with a fascinating book titled The Excruciating History of Dentistry, Toothsome Tales & Oral Oddities from Babylon to Braces, by James Wynbrandt.
Paul Revere apparently was one who practiced some aspect of dentistry. The Gutenberg.org web site has this excerpt from the book Customs and Fashions in Old New England by Alice Morse Earle:
"Live Teeth. Those Persons inclined to dispose of Live Teeth may apply to Templeton. Whereas many Persons are so unfortunate as to lose their Fore Teeth by Accident or Otherways to their great detriment not only in looks but in speaking both public and private.
"This is to inform all such that they may have them replaced with artificial ones that look as well as the Natural and answer the End of Speaking by Paul Revere, Silversmith, near the head of Dr. Clark’s wharf. All persons who have had False Teeth Fixed by Mr. Jos. Baker, Surgeone Dentist, and They have got loose as they will in Time may have them fastened by above said Revere who learnst the method of fixing them from Mr. Baker."
The daily life of our colonial (and later!) ancestors was hard on them physically, and was often painful for long periods. Still, many of them lived to what we consider "old age."
I am really glad that we have the level of professional dentistry that we have today.
UPDATE: Gena Philibert Ortega posted Dentistry two months ago - it has some useful links too.