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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
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Ex-Dentists Who Found Fame & Fortune

Dec 05, 2013

Wonder how many dentists and hygienists owe their careers today to the North Pole’s most famous dentist and the founder of North Pole Dental World, LLC?

Hermie the Dentist

Recently while watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with two of our grandchildren, we all laughed at Hermie, the elf who wanted to be a dentist.  As kids we all aspire to great occupations, whether it is firemen, princesses, cowboys, ballerinas, policemen, veterinarians or community organizers. 

I wanted to be a dental blogger before blogs even existed so dreams really do come true.

Most dentists remember what led them to pursue their career, but did you know some dentists were more successful after leaving their practices?  For instance, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow provides a clue on one such dentist:

Listen my children and you shall hear,
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
Accompanying Paul and his trusty steed,
Were tooth forceps and dental turn keys.

Okay, I apologize to any Longfellow descendants for the selfish act of literary terrorism above.

Many of us old enough to remember when American history was taught in school know that Paul Revere was one of America’s first multitaskers. In addition to being a successful silversmith, copper plate engraver and a caped patriot crusader, Paul Revere DDS was known from Medford Town to Middlesex. 

As far as we know there is no truth to colonial era rumors that Revere’s dental waiting room used lanterns to communicate with patients: one if he was available, two if he was not.

And speaking of waiting rooms, Dr. Zane Grey’s was in New York City.  The famous western writer was the son of a dentist, and young Zane helped his dad as a teen by performing basic extractions during rural house calls in Columbus, OH. That is, before he got busted by a state dental board. Zane went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in baseball, billiards, creative writing and studied just enough dentistry to get his license.

Grey located his practice in New York City to be close to book publishers, writing in the evening because he found his dental practice tedious.  Unfortunately many publishers found Grey’s writing tedious too, before he later honed his skills writing short stories between extractions and endodontic surgeries. Wonder if any of Dr. Grey’s patients saw themselves in his books? Grey became one of the first millionaire novelists and wrote more than 90 books, many of which became movies.

Speaking of movies, Hollywood has made a number of them involving a successful dentist turned gambler turned gunman. John Henry “Doc” Holliday is better known for gun wielding than his expertise wielding forceps, but the truth is Holliday met the requirements for a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery five months before his 21st birthday. 

Because many states required DDS degree holders and dental practitioners to be at least 21, Holliday worked briefly as a dental assistant in St. Louis before relocating to Atlanta in July 1872 where he began work as a regular dentist following his 21st birthday.

Unfortunately tuberculosis forced Holliday to relocate in December of that year to a drier climate and a new profession – professional gambler. (Some dentists would say there are similarities between the two professions.)  Regardless, patients were leery visiting a dentist with a hacking cough, and Holliday’s knack for games of chance proved more profitable.  

Holliday is perhaps best known for joining Wyatt Earp and his brothers in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Contrary to some accounts in the dental underground, the famous gunfight had less to do with a disagreement over an overdue dental bill than the fact that the Clanton’s and McLaury’s were rabid anti-dentites.

On the subject of westerns, one character actor known to millions from his roles in more than 100 movies originally followed in his father’s footsteps by working as a dentist.  In fact, he met his wife who was also a dental student at North Pacific College and after graduation the two ran a family practice in Oregon for a few years before moving to California.

After appearing in his first film in 1939 at the age of 36, this gent let his wife handle the dental basin and laughing gas while he pursued a successful career pretending to be other people, none of which were dentists.  This actor also appeared in every episode of Petticoat Junction, as well as 17 episodes of Green Acres and 3 on the Beverly Hillbillies. Give up? Meet ex-dentist and everyone’s “Uncle Joe," Edgar Buchanan.

For dentists reading this post, please don’t get the idea that life is greener on the other side of your dental practice. There are too few dentists now to meet demand, and the American public needs you now more than ever! Don’t ask what other professions can do for you, but ask what you can do for your profession.

Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk, and remember: Smiling is a universal language, so we’re all bilingual. If you need help with your smile, our full-range of dental plans can help you maintain yours for less per month than most utility bills. Click here for a free quote

Photo sources: Dental Life Magazine,,,,

Copyright 2013, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC ©

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