Francis Wharton was far from civilization when he found himself needing a pair of dentures.

Never at a loss, Wharton, a resourceful  hunter and inventor, who lived near Little Fort B.C. in the 1950s and 60s, shot a deer and used its teeth to make dentures for himself.

Then turned around and ate the deer ... with its own teeth.

"He made a nice little set of teeth for a full upper denture," said Kathy Karkut, collections manager at the Museum of Health Care in Kingston, which now has Wharton's teeth on display.

"I think he was just an unusual man. He was quite proud of his ingenuity, and he didn't need to go pay for dentures like everybody else."

Wharton's teeth were made of filed down deer's teeth, put into a base of plastic wood and held into place with household cement.

A contemporary magazine article about him reported he used the teeth for at least three years, despite Karkut describing them as "loose" and "dark and dirty."

"He must have used a lot of Polident," she said.

"The Backwoods Wizard"

Wharton, nicknamed "The Backwoods Wizard," was a fairly well-known eccentric in the Interior in those days.

According to a 1960 issue of Guns magazine, Wharton survived a bear attack by scaring the animal off with a shot from his .22-calibre rifle.

Teeth

Francis Wharton's dentures, made from filed-down deer's teeth and plastic wood. They were held in with household cement. (Museum of Health Care)

The bear still managed to swipe at him with its claws. The experience inspired him to design his own guns and bullets that were massive, handheld cannons to fight off any angry animals he came across.

And fight them off, he did. Guns reported that Wharton, in one case, killed eight bears in "revenge" after one killed his pet ram and, in a bizarre role reversal, ate the bear meat with his deer teeth.

John Taffin was a teenager when that story in Guns magazine came out. Fascinated by Wharton's story, he later became a writer for Guns and, years later, wrote about Wharton.

"[People like Wharton] are slowly getting beat down by everything around us, but there's still a few of them left," he said. "He was probably a product of the Depression, and like so many people, he learned how to make do."

Not recommended

But just in case you're feeling rugged yourself, the advice from professionals is not to try this at home.

B.C. Dental Association spokesman Dr. Bruce Ward says he can't even count the number of things wrong with the story of Francis Wharton, but says there's still something impressive about it.

"To try and get a set of dentures to fit the mouth is hard in the first place. ... I can't imagine making them [with deer teeth]. This guy must have been brilliant," he said.

He said someone making their own dentures would need to make sure they fit right, to avoid ulcers and painful sores, and also would have to worry about whether or not their materials are sterile.

Dr. Ward said that if you or someone you know needs dentures and is having trouble affording them, they should look for a dental school, or a dentist who will offer payment plans or deferred payments.

"I don't think going out and killing a deer and making your own dentures is a really viable option these days," he said.

"I would not recommend it."


To hear the full interview with Kathy Karkut, click the audio labelled: The bizarre story of Francis Warton's dentures.