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Explore the dentist’s world in pop culture

Movies, TV shows, songs, art put profession in spotlight

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Dentists can be found in more places than just where they practice.

They, as well as topics related to dentistry and teeth, are embedded in popular culture — in films, songs, TV shows and art.

For example, even the word “Bluetooth” derives its name from a famous mouth. King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, who among certain circles was known just as much for his dead, blue-colored tooth as for being the guy who united Denmark and Norway all the way back in 958, symbolizing the connection of peoples.

Just for fun, ADA News is providing a list of where some of our favorite — and least favorite — dentists can be found on the silver screen, in art galleries, on TV and across the radio waves.

Film
  • The first film that most people think of is “Little Shop of Horrors,” the play-turned-musical about a carnivorous plant that devours a sadistic dentist. It was adapted for film in not just 1960 but also 1986.
  • In the 1990 blockbuster “Home Alone,” Kevin asks a woman at the store counter if the ADA has approved a toothbrush. He accidentally steals the brush when he flees the store because he sees his scary neighbor.
  • In the 1976 film “Marathon Man,” Laurence Olivier plays a Nazi war criminal who torments Dustin Hoffman through dentistry.
  • The 2011 black comedy “Horrible Bosses” features Jennifer Aniston as a predatory dentist who sexually harasses one of the protagonists, dental assistant Dale, played by Charlie Day.
  • Matthew Perry, another “Friends” alum, plays a dentist in the 2000 flick “The Whole Nine Yards.” He unwittingly lives in the same neighborhood as a Mafia hitman played by Bruce Willis.
  • The 2002 comedy “Snow Dogs” stars Cuba Gooding Jr. as a Miami celebrity dentist who starts practicing in Alaska based on a new-found paternal relationship with sled dogs bequeathed to him by his mother.
  • Remember the 1984 Tom Hanks-Daryl Hannah film “Splash”? The movie features a memorable fight between Dr. Walter Kornbluth, played by Eugene Levy, and Mr. Hanks' character Allen Bauer inside a dental office, and it’s where they decide to team up to free the mermaid from evil scientists who want to dissect her.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2014 film “Inherent Vice,” adapted from a Thomas Pynchon novel, features Martin Short as a cocaine-sniffing, libidinous dentist.
  • In the 2003 Pixar classic “Finding Nemo,” the young clownfish is unexpectedly captured from Australia's Great Barrier Reef and taken to a dentist's office aquarium.
  • Ricky Gervais’ first major film role came in the 2008 comedy “Ghost Town,” in which he portrayed a misanthropic dentist who can see dead people.
  • A friend and associate of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, is best known for his role in the events leading up to and following the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and is played bv a memorable Van Kilmer in the 1993 film “Tombstone.” His profession? Dentist.
  • Dr. Stuart “Stu” Price from the 2009 film “The Hangover” (and its sequels) is a dentist, and during a moment of drunken stupor in the first film, performs his own tooth extraction to prove that he is good at what he does. The actor who portrays Stu, Ed Helms, reportedly was able to convince his own real-life dentist to remove his real dental implant so that his character could have a realistic missing tooth.
  • After their daughter is kidnapped by a criminal syndicate planning an assassination in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 classic film “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” Bob and his wife set out to find her with the help of her uncle Clive. At one point, Bob and Clive stop at a dentist's office connected to the assassination plot. The evil dentist is subdued when Bob uses nitrous oxide — twice — to knock out the dentist after the dentist tries to do the same thing to Bob.
  • Steve Martin plays a dentist in the 2001 black comedy “Novocaine,” described on IMDB.com as a story about a “straitlaced dentist who, because of one innocent lie, finds his tidy, prosperous life transformed into a comic quagmire of illicit sex, illegal drugs and inexplicable murder.”
  • In the 2013 remake “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” starring Johnny Depp, Willy Wonka’s father is a dentist who orders his young son to refrain from eating all candy.
TV

 

  • The first that comes to mind, of course, is Hermey the Elf from the beloved TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Hermey makes dentistry a career to aspire to, and he would rather be a misfit who is happy in his role checking the oral health of toys than stuck being an elf.
  • Another instance involving Ms. Aniston is that her “Friends” character, Rachel, abandoned her plan to marry fiancé Barry, an orthodontist.
  • Ashley Rosenbaum, D.M.D., was a dental student when she was cast as a contestant on the 15th season of “The Bachelor.” After being eliminated in week nine, she was later cast as the bachelorette on the seventh season of “The Bachelorette.” She is now a pediatric dentist in Florida.
  • Patrick Brambert, D.D.S., is a filmmaker — his 10-minute film, "Kitchen Spaces," was invited to and screened at the Dances with Films film festival in 2022 —who has appeared as a jail guard in the TV series “Chicago P.D.” on NBC.
  • Alli Alberts was a general dentist as well as a player for the Legends Football League (formerly Lingerie Football League) as a wide receiver in the Oxygen reality series “Pretty Strong.”
  • “It's Dental Flossophy, Charlie Brown” is a 1980 five-minute educational animated film in which Charlie Brown learns how to use floss correctly. It’s the sequel to “Tooth Brushing.”
  • Heavenly Kimes, D.D.S., is featured in Bravo’s reality TV series “Married to Medicine” and has appeared in every season since the show debuted in 2013.
  • Brittany Baker, D.M.D, practices dentistry by day and at night transforms into a professional AEW (All Elite Wrestling) wrestler, airing on TNT.
  • Tim Conway and Harvey Korman star in "The Dentist,” one of the more popular sketches from “The Carol Burnett Show” in 1969. Mr. Conway plays a recently graduated dentist who accidentally injects himself with Novocaine his first day on the job.
  • Dr. Tim Whatley, played by the pre-“Breaking Bad” Bryan Cranston, appears in one of the funnier episodes of “Seinfeld,” the “Yada-Yada” one. Mr. Seinfeld’s dentist, Dr. Whatley, has just finished the process of converting to Judaism, but is already making Jewish-themed jokes that make Mr. Seinfeld, who is Jewish, uncomfortable. He goes so far as to say that he believes that Dr. Whatley only became Jewish "for the jokes.” Kramer accuses Mr. Seinfeld of being a “rabid anti-dentite … Next, you’ll be saying they should have their own schools.” Mr. Seinfeld responds, “They do have their own schools,” which makes Kramer flip out.
  • In the fourth season of the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the co-creator of “Seinfeld,” Larry David, is upset that his dental hygienist had been spreading news about his plaque, which he insists isn’t there. To make matters worse, Mr. David's dentist ruins the elasticity of Mr. David’ sleeve cuff when he insists on rolling up Mr. David's sleeve to inject a sedative. Finally, Sammy, the pint-sized daughter of Mr. David’s manager Jeff, is traumatized when she finds a photograph of Mr. David's rotting teeth.
Art

 

  • The Saturday Evening Post’s Oct. 19, 1957, cover, painted by Norman Rockwell, features a nervous child in an operatory chair. Another of his 1957 Saturday Evening Post covers is called “The Check-Up,” in which a girl shows off her mouth to a classmate. The latter image adorned a stamp issued in honor of the 100th anniversary of the ADA.
  • The bespectacled man in Grant Wood’s famed 1930 painting “American Gothic” was modeled by Mr. Wood’s dentist.
Music

 

  • On Pearl Jam’s third album, “Vitalogy,” the album’s packaging featured a picture of an X-ray of frontman Eddie Vedder's teeth — instead of lyrics on the page devoted to the song "Corduroy.” Mr. Vedder told The Los Angeles Times about the song: “It is about a relationship but not between two people. It's more one person's relationship with a million people ... That's why instead of a lyric sheet we put in an X-ray of my teeth from last January and they are all in very bad shape, which was analogous to my head at the time.”
  • During boy band One Direction’s heyday, one of their hit songs was “Best Song Ever.” The song includes the lyrics, “Said her name was Georgia Rose / And her daddy was a dentist / Said I had a dirty mouth /But she kissed me like she meant it.”
  • “Weird” Al Yankovic parodies U2’s song “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” with the song “Cavity Search,” with lyrics such as “Listenin' to the Muzak / Hearin' people scream / Sittin' in the waiting room / Readin' crappy magazines.”
  • Even CoColemon gets into the fun with its song, “The Dentist,” which is only a slight less more bothersome than a toothache.

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