Sunday, June 22, 2008

A visit to the dentist the other day got me thinking: general sentiment and pop culture both seem to be unfair towards dentists - a "trip to the dentist" is to painful experiences what "brain surgery" is to activity requiring a high level of knowledge and skill. As someone who fears going to the doctor, and hated the orthodontist with a fiery passion, I've never had bad experiences with dentists. I go in, the technician cleans my teeth with delicious minty toothpaste while I sit in a cushy comfortable chair, and then the actual dentist comes in for about 2 minutes and makes sure there's nothing too far amiss. Even getting my cavity filled wasn't that bad, and the couple of times I've had to get teeth pulled, they've been with the oral surgeon, and not the dentist, so I don't associate those bad memories with the dentist. Another great thing about the dentist is the level of bad news they can give you - it can't be that bad - cavity? root canal is the worst, and it's still not as bad as what most doctors could say.

I wanted to try to help fight the negative image, so I wanted to see what wikipedia could offer to broaden people's horizons about dentists and it was able to help me out with a list of famous dentists, both real and fictional.

The two fictional dentists I've always thought of first were recurring Seinfeld character Tim Whatley (portrayed of course by Malcolm in the Middle dad Bryan Cranston) best known for his conversion for Judaism for the jokes and his regifting to Jerry a label maker which Elaine gave to him (on a sidenote, reading about Whatley on wikipedia, I was stunned and impressed to find out that "Crazy" Joe Davola has his own entry), and Orin Scrivello, the sadistic dentist from Little Shop of Horrors portrayed by Steve Marin in the movie, a role playing up the unfortunate image of the evil dentist.

Though the list was not as long as, say, wikipedia's list of fictional ducks, there were some other good finds. Glen Jacobs, better known as WWE's Kane, initially portrayed Jerry the King Lawler's private dentists Dr. Issac Yankem, DDS. Useless character Bernard from Lost, the only survivor remaining from the tail section, is a card carrying dentist, along Capt. Walter Koskiusko Waldowski, a character from MASH who is in the book and movie but not the TV series, Kyle McLaughlin's character Orson Hodge from Desperate Housewives and Laurence Olivier's villain in Marathon Man.

Several of the real life dentists are interesting too. Thomas Bramwell Welch, the founder of Welch's of grape juice fame was a dentist, as was Miles Davis's dad. German dentist Richard Muller was apparently the protagonist in one of the great German murder scandals of the 1950s, killing his wife by blowing up the car with her in it, and attempting to make it look like an accident. Jack Miller, apparently known as the "racing dentist" was a dentist, who, as his name suggests raced in the Indy Racing League for a couple of years in the late 90s. OK Corral gunfight participant Doc Holliday (and I thought it was just honorary) was a dentist, and career 34-game winning pitcher Steve Arlin, who must have been so confident in the shortness of his MLB career, since he actually started practicing while playing.

The message here is clear - dentists are many and varied, and have contributed to our society in many useful ways, from gun fights, to baseball, to jewish culture, to murder.

Fight the anti-dentite attitude. Save it for orthodontists.

1 comment:

Terry said...

I just saw this today, from

Still, he decided it was time to retire in 1989, when Mark McGwire got two hits off him. McGwire's father was TJ's dentist. John said, "When your dentist's kid starts hitting you, it's time to retire!"