Dentist Protagonists in Literature: Scarier in Fiction?

You can name the number of dentist protagonists in literature on one periodontal ligament. Apparently, Doc Holiday, the alcoholic, gambling gunslinger was a dentist – who knew? The only dentist I remember from the movies, was Laurence Olivier’s turn as the Nazi torturer in Marathon Man pulling out Dustin Hoffman’s teeth without anaesthetic. Willian Goldman wrote the novel that the film was based on. Dentists, let’s face it, are not archetypally heroic. One does not hear kids telling their parents that they want to grow up and become dentists. Dentist protagonists in literature: Scarier in fiction and rarer than hen’s teeth. The white coat sends out a message to surrender, rather than attack.

Dentists Fiction or Fact?

Of course, the terror of wisdom teeth removal is very real and in no way fictional. Perhaps, dentists are too frighteningly real and associated with painful discomfort to star on the pages of literature.  Dave Egger’s Heroes Of The Frontierkeeps coming up in my research, as featuring a dentist protagonist at the heart of his book. I have never read a book by Dave Eggers, so, I cannot tell you whether it is worth reading or not. What I do know is that no memorable character from any great literature pops up in my memory.

Moby Dick Minus a Dentist

My research reveals very little worth mentioning in regard to dentist protagonists in literature. Dentists are mere footnotes, when it comes to the big swinging dicks on the printed page. Alas, Captain Ahab was not on a dentist at any time during his ill-fated quest for Moby Dick. I am pretty certain that none of The Brothers Karamazov were dentists or even studying to be dentists throughout Dostoevsky’s epic tale. Both of these tomes are packed full of Christian concerns with god and morality, but no dentists.

Although I feel sorry for those folks who are so myopically focused on all things biblical that they lack perspective, I will include the few references to teeth in the bible. Exodus mentions an owner knocking out the tooth of his slave and letting the slave go free on this basis. Now, I am not sure if you cannot associate dentists in any way with this manumission. Proverbs places a bad tooth and a faithless man on a similar footing in terms of lack of confidence in their performance. Still, no direct reference to dentists on the biblical stage.