Ask the Dentist: Some dental fun to relieve the pressure of lockdown

Practices are mostly closed due to Covid-19 so Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast, has had time to take a lighter look at her profession's history

Close-up of a roll of dental floss – Robert Shepard made a floss rope to break of jail
Lucy Stock

BLUETOOTH is used every day but how many of you knew it had a toothy origin? Harald Gormsson was the King of Denmark and Norway in the 10th century AD. Harald was honoured with the nickname 'Blåtand,' which literally means blue tooth because he sported a dead tooth with a blue hue when he grinned.

The founders of bluetooth technology felt that Harald's ability to unite people in peaceful negotiations would be appropriate for a telecommunications technology.

In contrast, the Japanese prime minister Hideki Tojo was the so-called “architect of the war in the Pacific.” He was awaiting trial for war crimes after the Second World War with a serious case of tooth decay. Tojo requested new false teeth so that he could speak at his trial and an American dentist was appointed to deliver said teeth.

A plan was hatched to inscribe “Remember Pearl Harbour” on the dentures, but not wanting to be too obvious, the dentist inscribed the message using Morse code on the top set. Eventually the rumour got out and the message had to be hastily drilled off before the dentist got into trouble.

In the 1860s American Civil War it was mandatory for soldiers to have at least four upper and four lower front teeth so that they could bite off the end of the powder cartridges used with the rifles of the times. Soldiers who weren't so keen on fighting decided that removing their front teeth was a better option than the front line.

In 1994 an inmate in a West Virginia prison named Robert Shepard made a unique prison break. He braided dental floss into a rope as thick as a telephone cord and used it to scale an 18-foot wall. The prison guards scratched their heads trying to work out how he managed to acquire so much floss and sale of floss in the prison was duly suspended.

As most of the dental practices are now mainly closed except for emergencies you might want to try out a100-year-old technique to cure tooth decay – boiling dogs teeth in wine. Failing that, drinking the wine will have more effect. Hands off dogs!

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