Got Teeth Filled

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, August 31, 1914:  Went to Milton this afternoon to have my teeth filled. Took my filius (?)  along too.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:


Ouch! How many teeth needed fillings? It doesn’t sound like much fun. Hopefully your teeth feel better now.

I can’t quite make out the third word in the second sentence of this diary entry. I think that it says something like “filius.” Any ideas?


Recent photo of Milton

54 Responses

  1. No ideas but not surprised writing would be a bit off after the dentist!

  2. I tried to look up the word filius and all I could find is divi filius which means son of god. Could she have had a religious item with her for prayers or the like when facing the dentist?

  3. My guess would be ‘films’, especially considering Helena’s recent acquisition of a Brownie.

  4. I agree with Pat. I think the word is films.

  5. I hated going to the dentist. He didn’t like kids. Bad combination. Several of us kids had lots of cavities. Then, Crest came out. POOF!!! No more cavities. It was a miracle!

    I still get cold sweats when I go to the dentist for anything other than cleaning. :-(

    • I also had lots of cavities. Unfortunately fluoridated toothpastes weren’t a miraculous cure for me–I still got lots of cavities even after I started using Crest. :(

  6. Filius is Latin for “son”, but I found that it also ended up as part of the history of a word that meant to suck, or suckle. Maybe “filius” had made it into English as a word that meant what we call a pacifier, binkie, etc. She may have taken some object with her that she found comforting — which makes sense, in context.

    I don’t think the word is “film”, since x-rays weren’t discovered until 1895, and dental x-ray technology developed much later.

  7. It’s a mystery. I agree with shoreacres that it seems too long ago to have had actual films. Ugh, as much as I hate going to the dentist, can you imagine what it was like back then? The horror!

    • It couldn’t have been fun to go to the dentist–though if she had a toothache she may have looked forward to the relief that she’d get from having them filled.

  8. I think she took her camera films along to be developed.

    • I agree! Now that I realize that the word is film (and she recently returned from a trip where she took photos), it makes sense that she took the camera film to town to be developed.

  9. The first dental x-rays were taken in 1896, so I think it’s likely that they were in use in America in 1914. The discovery of this use for x-rays was a sensation in the 1890’s. Another indication that the word is “films” is that Helena was careful to dot all the other “i’s” in her sentences and there’s no dot over the questioned word. Her penmanship is disciplined.

  10. I think she was taking her “films” along too. As for the fillings, that was no picnic. Bet they did things without novacaine!

    • I hadn’t thought about it until you mentioned it, but I bet you’re right that they didn’t use Novocaine. I can remember getting teeth filled without it being numbed when I was a kid. . . ouch!

  11. “Films” was my first impression as well…

  12. Films. I wonder if she dropped them at a developer shop and hoped to pick them up after her ordeal.

    • Now that I realize that the word is films, it makes sense to me that she dropped them off to be developed–though I bet that it took longer than a couple hours to get the developed photos. :)

  13. I love seeing her handwriting…and I vote “films” too.

    • I’m glad you liked seeing the handwriting. Since I see it regularly as I work on posts, I sometimes don’t think about that others might also like to see it.

  14. Oh, “Films” does make sense. Now I can relax — mystery solved to some satisfaction.

    And I agree, it was fun to see her handwriting.

    • It’s awesome how the blogging community can solve mysteries like this. I never would have seen an “m” in the middle of the word–yet others immediately knew that it said “film” (and once others told me, I can easily see that they are right).

  15. I agree that it looks like films, although I don’t know if I would have thought of that if I hadn’t seen all the previous comments.
    Jim, I know the feeling; after a very uncompassionate dentist I had in childhood, I’m left with a dread of dental appointments….

    • I have an upcoming dentist appointment on Wednesday. I’m not looking forward to it–though I know that I’m being silly since it’s just for a cleaning.

  16. I vote for film also. I dreaded the dentist when I was young but that was way back when.

  17. I thought films, too.

  18. I think the word is ‘films’. Were films developed at the pharmacy and would the dentist have been in the pharmacy as well?

    • hmm. . . I guess that I have now idea where the dentist was located. Back in 1911, Grandma had to go to the dentist several times before she found him. For example, on May 23, 1911, she wrote:

      “I went to Milton this afternoon to get my teeth filled, but it happened to be a wild goose chase, for he wasn’t there. I walked around town . . . ”

      In my mind I was picturing it being an office in his home, but maybe the dentist was located at the pharmacy.

  19. although taking some religious items to the dentist sounds good to me – not a bad idea the next time I go to the dentist!! I think too it was films.

  20. Hmmm I wonder what they used for fillings back then?

  21. I love seeing her handwriting!

  22. What a great post and comment section. How great that the blogging community helped you figure out the word “film”.
    Having just come through many dental procedures, I’m thankful I had them done now and not 100 years ago!

  23. I didn’t read all the comments – don’t know if someone answered. “filius” is Latin for son. Did she mean she took her brother along?

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