Digging for Gold

By Larry Cohen / Benco Dental Chairman and Chief Customer Advocate

Larry Cohen, Chairman and Chief Customer Advocate

When Art Deco design reigned in America, the humble waste can ruled the most stylish operatories.

Waste receptacles  have always been a functional necessity in the dental operatory. It has been more than 70 years, however, since they were a fashion statement. During the first half of the twentieth century, the aesthetics of where you stashed your trash were considered as integral as what you hung on your walls.

What you see here is a top-of-the-line waste can in mahogany (at the time a very popular color), circa 1935. These beauties were also available with a foot pedal-operated flip-up lid, and all of them had a removable inner bucket. Yes, the era’s Art Deco sensibilities extended even to its humble waste receptacles.

My father loved to tell a story about the dentist he once saw extracting an infected tooth attached to a gold bridge. With a disgusted grimace, the dentist waved the bloody mass under the nose of the relieved patient and, with a flourish, flung the offending blob into the nearby waste can.

Immediately after dismissing the patient, however, the dentist was down on his knees, rooting through the waste can to retrieve the gold bridge. At the time, gold was pegged at $35 per troy ounce, while an extraction -by far the most significant dental procedure of the day- went for just $2 to $5.

Hey, it was the Depression – you did what you had to do!

LARRY COHEN, Benco Dental’s chairman and chief customer advocate, has over the past half-century collected hundreds of unique dental artifacts, which reside at Benco’s world headquarters in Pittston, Pennsylvania. 



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