“Denturist all over the world are members of a unique family of rebels.” This quote from a South African denturist is true and proven if one attends an international meeting of denturists and feels this kinship and hears stories about the denturist's heroes. This quote generated the inspiration for the honoring feature in our magazine. William Lees, from Alberta, Canada, was a small man suffering from a handicap as a result of an accident that ended his ability to work his heavy labor job. He found his niche as a dental mechanic making dentures for dentists for their patients, however, the depression that hit in 1929 caused his work to drop significantly because people were unemployed, times were desperate and many were starving. Dentures, at the price charged by dentists, were a luxury few could afford. Realizing he could provide a superior denture for less without the “middle man” he started seeing patients. Of course, this displeased the dentists, they would threaten and fine him, but he would pay the fine and keep working. Eventually, the continued harassment and fines were so great he had to sell his home and everything he owned to prevent going to jail. Yet he continued. He partnered with Harry Courtney, also a dental mechanic and together they served with dedication and commitment and each harassment and incident brought on by the dentists created more and more publicity. The public rallied behind them and started a petition which yielded thousands of signatures that were sent to their legislators. Listening to their constituents the legislators amended the law in favor of the dental mechanics… which started the denturist revolution in Canada.
Each province has its story and heroes who fought for and received denturist recognition and no one is better known or appreciated more than Ben Sweet. He played an instrumental role in founding the Denturist Society of Ontario and was renowned as a man of principal and champion for the cause. Like many pioneers, as he led Ontario’s fight he was jailed and had his office raided and records and denture work confiscated. However, his perseverance and vision for and contribution to the denturist profession grew to encompass all of Canada and the world. These forefathers are an example to us in our quest for independence….we must maintain the perseverance of William Lees and the vision of Ben Sweet to look beyond where we are to visualize a global profession dedicated to serving. Everyone deserves the right to be served by a denturist because denturists change lives – one smile at a time!