Breaking Amish is a TLC reality show that follows the experience of five young adults as they set out to experience life outside of an Amish community for the first time, in none other than New York City. During one episode, audience members were shocked to discover that Rebecca, one of the Amish cast members, had no teeth and wore dentures at such a young age. When the show came under criticism as to the legitimacy of the Amish cast members, viewers speculated that Rebecca’s missing teeth were the result of some barbaric Amish punishment, while others doubted that it was even related to Rebecca’s Amish background, but the truth is a little more complicated.
When the cast members of breaking Amish travel to NYC and experience life outside of their sheltered Amish community they are in some ways following in the tradition of rumspringa. Rumspringa, a German word referring to adolescents, is a time when Amish teens begin dating, deciding if they want to join the church and in some communities are permitted to sample aspects of life in the modern world. Breaking Amish departs from this tradition in part because it follows young adults who have already past the stage of rumspringa.
Is Breaking Amish portraying the truth?
The Breaking Amish Controversy
Not long after the airing of the first episode of Breaking Amish, it was discovered that the cast members had already left their respective Amish communities before the start of filming, for some it had been years earlier. On the program, cast members had portrayed themselves in ways that were inconsistent with their true background, for instance, Rebecca was already married, divorced and had a child. Because of these inconsistencies many viewers began to doubt the credibility of the show, the truth behind cast members as well as the portrayal of Amish life.
Is Rebecca’s Explanation True?
When it was discovered that Rebecca was using dentures because her teeth had been pulled out at the age of 19, many viewers questioned the reason for this and doubted the credibility of her explanation. This left viewers even more confused about both Amish tooth extraction practices as well as the credibility of the show. Rebecca explained that her teeth were pulled out by an Amish dentist using only pliers and a drill at the age of 19, and that this was a typical Amish practice.
As shocking as it may be to our modern way of thinking, the Amish customarily have their teeth pulled out and replaced with dentures rather than taking care of them.
The Amish will in fact have teeth extracted by choice.
Although the program made many viewers skeptical of Rebecca’s story, it was in fact the truth. Amish will remove a tooth that is causing problems and even remove a whole set of teeth since dentures are far less expensive than treating a problem tooth or a lifetime of dental care.
Having a pretty smile or keeping up with dental care is not a priority for the Amish. The Amish have a completely different set of values such that it is very difficult for outsiders to understand and possibly respect.
In the book “Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish,” author Joe Mackell befriends a Swartzentruber Amish Family and documents his fascinating window into the Amish customs and ways of life. It is through this relationship that the details of typical Amish dental care are revealed and explained to outsiders. Mackell is told by Samuel, the father of the Amish family that he was planning on having all of his teeth removed after having problems with his some of his teeth. While Samuel is not happy about having this tooth extraction scheduled, it was considered a normal way to handle a problem tooth. For the Amish it is a matter of fact consideration of economics and practicality.
While dental care is considered basic for those of us in the outside world, for the Amish it is a very low priority. Although viewers of Breaking Amish were shocked and doubted Rebecca’s explanation for having her full mouth of teeth extracted, her explanation is true and is a common practice among the Amish.
Rebecca on Breaking Amish
More good information about the Amish
- Why do the Amish have their Teeth Pulled Out?
The Amish have a very different approach to dental care. Find out why the Amish pull out a problem tooth or a whole mouthfull of teeth and choose to use dentures instead.
- 10 Amish Ways of Life that May Surprise You
The Amish life is steeped in tradition and an adherence to the teachings of the bible. With a culture that goes back 400 years, there are many surprising traditions and beliefs that exist in stark contrast to modern day life.
- Understanding the Amish
Visiting and observing Amish life is akin to time travel. There is a wealth of wisdom to be learned from a people that live a wholesome life inspired by the bible. Amish choices may not make sense to outsiders on the surface but by simply peeling awa
© 2014 Tracy Lynn Conway
Carol Morris on June 23, 2016:
Wow....it's so interesting seeing how others live. Thanks for this look into their lives.
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on May 07, 2014:
Perspycacious, thank you!
Eric, thank you!
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 21, 2014:
Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on April 21, 2014:
Adding to our knowledge, by answering questions that arise, is commendable scholarship. Thanks.