In early February, the story of Paul Bishop’s false teeth swept the British media and much of the globe. Nobody could resist the story. It offers humor, mystery, and the reassurance that there are diligent, honorable lab technicians looking out for us. The story also makes for catchy headlines. “Shocked Brit Gets False Teeth in Post 11 Years After He Vomited Them into Bin,” says The Mirror. “Fangs for the Memories!” exclaim the punsters at the Daily Mail. However, as Matt Reynolds, senior writer for Wired writes, “The tooth . . . was not exactly as it seemed.”
Reynolds did not get to the exact truth of the matter, but he certainly tried, and this puts him in an elite small minority among journalists. The basic story goes like this: back in 2011, Bishop and some mates traveled to the resort town of Benidorm, Spain. After drinking all day, he felt the urge to vomit, and so he did, in a trash bin. His upper dentures went out with the rest of the mess, but he was too muddled to care. Over a decade later, Bishop received an unexpected package from Spain. “It turned out my teeth went to some landfill, and because it’s classed as body parts, the Spanish government won’t allow them to be destroyed,” he explained to the Independent. Evidently, a lab tech in Spain eventually discovered the dentures and was able to match them to their owner using a DNA database.
Such databases do exist for use by law enforcement, but not for lost dentures. Besides that, Reynolds uncovered issues with the envelope’s postmark and stamps, the nonexistent lab technician, and just about every other detail besides the fact that Paul Bishop wears dentures and likes to party in Spain. The big takeaway from the Wired story is that this bizarre tale ran rampant in major news publications for a week, but nobody checked a single detail. Reynolds concludes with the following thoughts: “Bishop’s dentures are destined to become part of viral news lore. The truth behind the teeth simply doesn’t matter enough.” (Read more hoax stories.)