Monday, August 21, 2017

National Museum of Dentistry

My feelings about dentists are complicated. Growing up, I despised them, and everything they stood for. They represented pain and shame. But the history of the profession is undeniably interesting, and I've come to enjoy reading about it and thinking about it and different contexts.

I also enjoy going to different types of museums, so on our vacation to Delaware/Maryland, I suggested a day trip into Baltimore to visit the National Museum of Dentistry. 

The museum is part of the University of Maryland's dental college. It was actually alot of fun! The museum boasts collections of antique dental tools and chairs, as well as multi-media exhibits which play vintage toothpaste commercials and different examples of how dentists have been portrayed in pop culture, like an "Our Gang" short in which Alfalfa is strapped into the chair as his buddies look on worriedly.

There are also some fun historical artifacts that place the dentistry field in the broader context of history, by providing links to well-known figures of the past. For example, we were able to view part of George Washington's false teeth, as well as the dental tools used by Sir Edwin Saunders (he was the first dental surgeon to be knighted) when he treated Queen Victoria. The handles of the Queen's dental tools were made of mother-of-pearl:

Since the museum is part of the dental college, it's only fitting that a large part of it is dedicated to promoting healthy habits in children, so there are interactive parts where kids can practice proper brushing technique on a huge set of teeth:

There's also a make-believe dental office where they can put on white coats and pretend to be dentists:

There was also a little portion which listed the various inventions that dentists have patented throughout history, including but not limited to: cotton candy, chewing gum, Welch's grape juice, and wooden golf tees.

I think the display that excited, and surprised, me the most was the 1930's dental cabinet that is meant to look like a dollhouse:

Apparently, these models were produced in that era in order to make dental office appear friendlier and more welcoming for children. I wish my office had one of these.  .  .

We did a couple other things while we were in Baltimore, but I'll write about those later.

If you'd like to read more about the museum's artifacts, NPR did a little feature on the museum back in 2010.

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