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Quiz: Are You a Dental Historian?


Are You a Dental Historian? Take our quick quiz to see if you can identify these famous dentists!

Happy tooth question

While writing about the “Evil Dentist” trope in movies and television, I noted how few positive dental role models there have been throughout the years in pop culture. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some famous dentists, and many of them famous for very good reasons.

How well do you know your dental history? Can you name the following famous dentists, just based on a few details of their lives and careers?

1. The Father of them all. Though it might seem wrong to start the quiz of famous dentists with a physician, in this case, it’s justified. This French doctor is often called “The father of modern dentistry,” and for good reason. He wrote the first complete scientific description of dentistry, published in 1728. He built his physician career on identifying basic oral anatomy and function, treating those suffering from tooth decay and periodontal disease, and tooth transplantation. He is largely seen as the first dentist to treat dental issues as opposed to simply pulling teeth. He pioneered many methods to replace lost teeth, and used tools modified from other professions to treat patients. He was also an early patient advocate, ruthlessly pointing out “quack dentistry” and charlatanry.

Can you name him?

2. Dentist goes Hollywood. This dentist enjoyed a successful practice before the allure of film and television took him away from dentistry and onto the big and flat screens. His acting credits include more than 172 movies and television appearances from 1939 to 1974. Though his IMDB page includes plenty of background roles, such as “bartender” and “party guest,” they also include Uncle Joe Carson from Petticoat Junction.

Can you name him?

3. Short practice career, long notoriety. His dental practicing days were cut short by tuberculosis and the pursuit of slightly less noble aims, but his legend, established in the twilight of the American frontier days, lives on. Precocious and intelligent, he earned his dental degree before he turned 21, the legal age at the time to carry a dental license, and had to wait several months before obtaining his license and beginning to practice. The pursuit of gambling and his desire to treat his tuberculosis by pursuing drier Western air led him West of the Mississippi river and into a life that, quite frankly, should have led to an Oscar nomination for actor Val Kilmer.

Can you name him? (If not...really?)

4. Making her own way. Every established field needs a woman pioneer, and dentistry was no different. After an accomplished teaching career in New York, this determined woman decided to become a dentist. Denied entry into dental school because shew as a woman, she embarked on a private study program with a mentor, then started her own practice in Cincinnati. After moving to Iowa in the early 1860s, she was finally professionally recognized by the Iowa State Dental Society in 1865. She went on to earn a doctorate in Dentistry, the first woman to do so. She later became a strong advocate for women’s rights.

Can you name her?

5. Did he, or didn’t he? The use of ether in dental practice was a pioneering accomplishment, but who is responsible for it? Was it this gentleman, who, already a dentist, went to Harvard Medical School to assuage his fiancé’s parents? He did notably performed a painless extraction using ether in September of 1846. But others were soon hot on his heels, and many claimed to be the developer of the technique—including his own mentor and former partner. Also, ether had been used several years earlier in a medical procedure. This dentist’s attempts to develop a patent for the technique, both in the United States and abroad, raised questions about his motivations. Later, he joined the Army of the Potomac as a volunteer surgeon.

Can you name him?

Click through to Page 2 for the answers…

Happy tooth question


1. The Father of them all:

Answer: Pierre Fauchard

2. The Hollywood Dentist:

Answer: Edgar Buchanan

3. The Old West legend with a short career and long notoriety:

Answer: Really?!

4. Female dentistry pioneer:

Answer: Lucy Hobbs Taylor

5. The first person (maybe) to use ether in dental practice:

Answer: William T.G. Morton

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