Soylman Brown (1790-1876) was a Connecticut dentist who achieved prominence in his profession for a number of reasons. According to Wikipedia, he founded the first dental school, the first national dental society, and the first US dental journal. Plus, he became known as the Poet Laureate of Dentistry on account of his fifty-four page poem titled Dentologia - A Poem on Diseases of the Teeth, and Their Proper Remedies. It was published in 1840.
If you've got some time to kill, you can read the entire poem at the Internet Archive. Otherwise, I've sampled a brief part of it below, which should be enough to give you its general tone.
The first dentition asks our earliest care,
For oft, obstructed nature, laboring there,
Demands assistance of experienced art,
And seeks from science her appointed part.
Perhaps ere yet the infant tongue can tell
The seat of anguish that it knows too well,
Some struggling tooth, just bursting into day,
Obtuse and vigorous, urges on its way,
While inflammation, pain, and bitter cries,
And flooding tears, in sad succession rise.
The lancet, then, alone can give relief,
And mitigate the helpless sufferer's grief;
But no unpractised hand should guide the steel
Whose polished point must carry wo or weal:—
With nicest skill the dentist's hand can touch,
And neither wound too little nor too much.
I'm sure this must have been the strangest day in Norman Carstens' career as an orthodontist:
The boy had apparently asked other dentists in the area to remove his braces before visiting Carstens' Mack Avenue office on Feb 8, "probably because he lives three or four blocks from my office," Carstens said. "He (came) in to see me and said he wanted them off. I said he wasn't finished with his treatment and I couldn't take them off without a letter from his parents and his regular orthodontist.
"I had him in the chair and he leaned over and pulled the gun out of his pocket and said, 'Would this make you change your mind?' and I said, 'Yes,'" Carstens said.
(click to enlarge) Central New Jersey Home News - Feb 16, 1985
In some parts of the world, people smoke cigarettes by holding the lit end inside their mouth. Apparently this doesn't burn them. In fact, reverse smokers claim that they enjoy the sensation of warmth it creates inside their mouth.
Journal of the American Dental Association - Mar 1976
The cigarette-smoking habits of people in some parts of the world include a variation called reverse smoking, which is accomplished by holding the lighted end of a cigarette or cigar inside the oral cavity. Air is drawn to the burning zone through the unlighted end of a cigarette, and smoke is expelled back through the cigarette or out through the mouth. The smoke is not usually inhaled; however, the ashes are swallowed. Smoke and tar products are allowed to condense on the surfaces of the teeth, palate, and adjacent mucosa. Tobacco tar and smoke that come into contact with the highly vascular moist mucosa contribute to the pleasurable sensation.
Reverse smoking has been reported to occur in the lower economic groups in areas of India, the Caribbean, Sardinia, South America, Korea, and the Philippine Islands. In the Philippine Islands, reverse smoking is referred to as “ bakwe” and is practiced almost exclusively by married women. It is a symbolic indication of the achievement of marital status and represents the responsibility that is peculiar to a married woman, in contrast to the carefree life-style of an unattached maiden. Many look on an unmarried smoker as a woman of easy virtue.
It is noteworthy that in parts of Korea women begin smoking on their 60th birthday, to represent the beginning of their retired life. This signifies wisdom and experience.
Motherhood and housework are the primary reasons why reverse smoking is practiced only by women. It enables the mother to feed and tend to her child without the risk of the infant touching the lighted end of the cigarette. It also eliminates the possibility of ashes dropping on children, eating utensils, clothing that is being washed, and food that is being prepared.
Reverse smokers give several other reasons for indulging in this peculiar habit: it is more pleasurable than conventional smoking; it gives one the feeling of warmth during the rainy season (This may explain why reverse smoking is practiced primarily in equatorial climates, which usually have a long rainy season.); there is no desire to inhale; and the cigarette or cigar lasts longer.
A study by Quigley and others reported that the average time for conventional smoking of a cigarette is four minutes and six seconds, whereas the average time for reverse smoking is seven minutes 42 seconds. Native reverse smokers may retain a single cigarette for as long as 18 minutes.
Journal of the American Dental Association - Apr 1966
Heavy tar buildup inside the mouth of a reverse smoker. Journal of the American Dental Association - Oct 1964
Recent research reveals that dentists can not only smell fear, but that when they do their job performance significantly declines. From New Scientist:
The researchers asked 24 student volunteers to each donate a T-shirt they had worn during a stressful exam, and another worn at a calm lecture. The team doused the T-shirts with a chemical that masks body odour, so that no one could consciously smell it. A separate group of 24 dental students said they couldn’t detect any difference between the two sets of shirts.
Next, examiners graded the dental students as they carried out treatments on mannequins dressed in the donated T-shirts. The students scored significantly worse when the mannequins were wearing T-shirts from stressful contexts. Mistakes included being more likely to damage teeth next to the ones they were working on.
So, if your fear causes your dentist to start making more mistakes, I assume that will only increase your fear, causing your dentist to make even more mistakes, leading to a downward-spiraling cycle of terror.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.