Dentistry seems to be everywhere we look - and it's not always portrayed in the best light.
Many TV shows and movies have depicted dentists as either sadistic lunatics or insecure frauds. We all remember how they were characterized in the films Little Shop of Horrors and The Dentist - a bit disturbing, to say the least.
For a more positive portrayal of dentistry in pop culture, I like to recall The Whole Nine Yards. Matthew Perry plays a down-on-his-luck dentist who gets mixed up with a hit man who moves in next door. One of the film's more interesting scenes is when a dead man is made to look like another person when his dental work is changed. Identification by these means is called forensic dentistry. I have always wanted to take a course or two in forensics, so I enjoyed that part of the movie in particular.
For another example of dentistry in movies and TV, we turn to Finding Nemo. The title character gets lost and eventually ends up in a dentist's fish tank. What we see of the dentist makes him seem like a confident and rugged man's man - much different from the weak, insecure dentists usually seen in pop culture.
Then there's the ABC sitcom Suburgatory. The show introduces us to a girl and her father who move from the city to the suburbs, where one of their new acquaintances is a cocky dentist. He's not so terrible, though he does encourage some of the local young people to drink stuff that stains their teeth so bad they need professional whitening. Well, at least he's not hurting anyone.
You also see a lot of characters making fun of dentists for being "only a dentist." In the movie Good Luck Chuck, the dentist tells people he's a doctor. Someone else replies: "He's a heart surgeon and you're a dentist. It's like saying Gen. Patton and Colonel Mustard are both military men." Or in the movie The Hangover, when Stu checks in as "Dr. Price" at a Vegas hotel, one of his friends scoffs. "Stu, you're a dentist," he says. "Don't try and get fancy." Stu responds: "It's not fancy if it's true." The friend's reply to the person checking them in: "He's a dentist - don't get too excited. And if someone has a heart attack, you should still call 911."
I am happy that portrayals of dentists have improved beyond horror movies. Every dentist has their own quirk and unique personality, but we all have one thing in common - we're crazy about teeth!
DR. PATRICIA BERUBE is a periodontist in private practice in Denton. For more information, visit www.dentonperio.com .