Dental sales reps have always toted around lots of information and equipment. Here’s how they did it back in the old days.THE ORIGINAL CASE that my father, Ben, carried after opening Benco Dental in 1930 is long gone. The one you see here, however, is nearly identical. I found it on eBay and it looked enough like the original to purchase.
Back then, Benco was a one-room dental supply depot housing his desk, inventory and a few tooth cabinets (artificial teeth were a big part of his budding business). Ben had no company catalog, so he had to carry the brochures of every single manufacturer he represented, plus price lists. Not only that, he arrived carrying the latest and greatest new dental materials because in those years, new materials and brands were being introduced constantly. (By the way, dental offices were almost always located on the second floor above a retail establishment . . . with a long flight of stairs the only way up.)
Those catalogs and samples added up to dozens of pounds. Google was decades away, so there was no other choice but to study up on all this data yourself. If you wonder why gyms weren’t popular in that era, it’s because every day was a workout. In fact, this isn’t even a replica of the original case my father carried. He started off selling hand instruments all over rural New York, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey, and that case, fully loaded, weighed almost 100 pounds!
Today, about the heaviest thing Benco sales reps carry is a laptop, iPad or phone. But while they may have less to carry, there’s a lot more to know. In Ben’s day, if reps knew the difference between an aluminum shell and a copper band, they were practically experts. I’ll keep this old case handy as a reminder of how much simpler the dental business was in the “old days” than it is today.