Who was the first dentist in Los Banos?

By Alina GuiterrezApril 1, 2013 

Dr. J.J. King was the first dentist to practice in Los Banos.

King was in his 20s. He had been practicing in Gilroy for a year when he traveled to Center Point to buy some dry goods. Center Point eventually became Los Banos.

The town was actually set up by Mr. Hoffman, whose family owned a store there. He and King became fast friends, and duck hunting buddies. King began to look after Hoffman's son's teeth; apparently, he did a great job because Hoffman invited King for an outing.

"Bring some tools along with you," Hoffman told the doctor, according to area historian Ralph Milliken's accounts at the local museum, "for there might be some people over there that need your attention."

King wound up at the Arburua Ranch in the foothills of Los Banos, where a Spanish family was in desperate need of a dentist. According to the account, the family offered brandy to King and Hoffman. It was here that King took his first-ever sip of brandy.

A traditional Spanish dinner followed and Hoffman gave King some advice: "During dinner you will be served wine, don't take more than a polite taste." King was careful to drink only a small amount because he didn't want to seem "befuddled" while working on teeth. However, before the dinner was served, the family brought out cognac. King was not too fond of it and had only a polite taste. Finally, came the food, which included five kinds of meat, the sweetest bread, potatoes and beans. With each new dish came a new bottle of wine. The dentist took careful sips of each.

After two hours of eating and drinking, according to the account, King began to wonder if all the dentistry he had come to perform was all that important. He became a little worried that the liquor was starting to "seize on me" and he would become too drunk to perform the work.

"I don't think I better be drinking any more of this stuff at the present. You know there were some people here who wanted me to ease their teeth," Hoffman reportedly said. King told the family to bring a center chair beside an open window for breeze, and he began to fill the family members' teeth with silver. All went well and King established his practice in Los Banos in 1895.

He continued to practice what he advertised as "painless dentistry" for more than 25 years. Many of King's office artifacts are on display at the Milliken Museum.

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