Monday, May 18, 2009

The chair

Even in the mid-nineteenth century, by which time dentistry was rapidly improving and laughing gas even offered the gladsome prospect of anesthesia, a visit to the dentist was still dreaded, as indeed it is still by many people today. In his 80-page Dentologia: A Poem on the Diseases of the Teeth and their Proper Remedies (1833) Solyman Brown, a New Englander, dentist and graduate of Yale, sought to offer reassurance, though his lines nevertheless unfurl a gloomy vista:

Whene’er along the ivory discs are seen
The rapid traces of the dark gangrene,
When caries comes, with stealthy pace, to throw
Corrosive ink-spots on those banks of snow,
Brook no delay, ye trembling, suffering Fair,
But fly for refuge to the Dentist’s care.
Incredibly, Brown is known in some circles as the Poet Laureate of dentistry but I suppose one must be thankful that at least he did not choose to close that final, hideous couplet with the word ‘chair.’

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