The legion of dental phobics - and others whose whine raises in tandem with that of the drill - would do well to stifle their terror and instead offer thanks to Apollonia, the patron saint of toothache sufferers, that they only face fleeting discomfort rather than the disfiguring distress or slow agonizing death by the dental care providers of the past. The transition from yesterday's ignorance, misapprehension and superstition to the enlightened and nerve-deadened protocols of today has been a slow and painful process. This text contains, among many thing, the following facts: among toothache remedies favoured by Pierre Fauchard was rinsing the mouth liberally with one's own urine; George Washington never had wooden teeth - however his chronic dental problem may have impacted the outcome of the American Revolution; and soldiers in the Civil War needed at least two opposing front teeth to rip open powder envelopes, so some men called up for induction had their front teeth extracted to avoid service.
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James Wynbrandt lives in New York City.
A breezy romp through the history of dentistry that will be excruciating only for those pained by word play, especially puns. Comedy writer Wynbrandt has fun with this one, but he has filled it with facts, too. He covers the world of tooth care from the Babylonians of 5000 b.c., worms and devils and treated them with henbane and prayer, to today's film stars with their dentist-crafted perfect smiles. Here one learns of the dental glory that was Rome (the first cavity is said to have been filled in the first century a.d.), the itinerant tooth-drawers of the Middle Ages and later eras. (``Not all tooth-drawers were crooks and deceivers. Some were merely incompetent.''), the beginnings of the modern dental era in 18th-century France, and the profession's 19th-century efforts to rid itself of quacks and charlatans (the world's first dental college opened in 1840). Wynbrandt wittily chronicles the development of anesthetics, fluoride, X-rays, drills, dental chairs, and even toothpicks. George Washington's famous false teeth are, of course, discussed; so is Ulysses S. Grant's dental work and George Custer's last toothbrush. Folklore, myth, religion, movies, poetry, and advertisements--all are tapped by Wynbrandt, who quotes liberally from a variety of contemporary sources to bring his light-hearted history to life. While sensitive dentists may wince at having their profession's rough-and-tumble past revealed, dental patients are more likely to feel relief at having been born in the modern era of dentistry. Both groups are in for a good laugh. (8 pages b&w illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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