Don’t Let the Movie Dentists Scare You

For one of Jack Nicholson’s earliest movie roles, he played Wilbur Force, the weird guy in the waiting room at the office of the evil dentist that Audrey foolishly dates in Little Shop of Horrors. He was manically excited about the possibility of drilling and made a huge impression on florist Seymour Krelborn, as well as on every person who saw the film. For the remake, Steve Martin was cast as Orin Scrovello, DDS, and made all of us question whether we really loved him as much as we thought we did before the opening credits rolled. Wild and crazy guy, indeed.

Thankfully, that madcap character of musical fame is as unreal as Audrey II and her plot to take over the world. Your neighborhood DDS is fighting the good fight against plaque and cavities and gum disease as well as the bad rap his profession gets for saving your teeth and brightening your smile. Before you decide the guy who checks for cavities and gives you a new toothbrush every year is just the latest generation in a long line of boring guys who never do more than lean over open mouths and smell bad breath all day, take a little lesson from history.

John Henry “Doc” Holliday was a professional DDS. He might not be famous for his dentistry so much as for his participation in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but he graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery about a hundred and thirty years ago. You wouldn’t want to go to him for a cleaning, but you have to admit he maintains some good, Old West street cred even now. Also, he was menacing only outside the dentist office. None of his alleged crimes were committed while he was living and working in Atlanta; those came after he became a gambler and temporarily settled in Tombstone, Arizona. Taking up with Wyatt Earp is bound to earn you a little infamy.

It is highly unlikely that the person kindly lecturing you about oral hygiene and looking after your dental health is or has ever been a gunslinger. On the other hand, he or she does battle gum disease to the death on a regular basis. It’s death, of course. The good news is that this determination to beat back plaque will keep you eating your apple a day for years and years to come and make your trips to the dentist office much more pleasant.

No matter how many times pop culture tries to scare you away from your dentist office, keep going for cleanings and x-rays and even braces if needed. It is better to have popcorn temporarily stuck between your teeth while you watch Willy Wonka reunite with his dad the dentist then to have no teeth with which to chomp on Milk Duds. Also, that nightmarish headgear was completely fake.