Let's have a look at those cavities...
I am your dentist!
And I enjoy the career that I've picked!
I'm your dentist,
And I get off on the pain I inflict!
Poor dentists. The prevalence of dental fear
amongst people of all ages and educational levels leads to dentists being unfairly stereotyped in popular culture as sadistic torturers.
Expect the Depraved Dentist to wear a permanent Cheshire Cat Grin
, usher a patient into his (it's nearly always "his") examining room filled with rusty, scary-looking instruments
, most of which are from the 16th century, and a huge honkin' drill
, and wreak havoc on the helpless, screaming individual's mouth (and possibly other body parts). If his patient comes to him with a toothache
, he may not care about pulling some other teeth that were perfectly good.
Sometimes the dentist doesn't practice tooth-torture, but does creepy things to them when they're under anesthesia
Sometimes (unrealistically) also practices orthodonture, a similarly feared profession in Real Life
The trope arises from that fact that until the early-1800s, teeth yanking was usually under the purview of (usually badly trained) barbers, who generally took the "brute-force" approach towards dental surgery. The use of anesthesia was not common place until after WWII. As a procedure that most people would have undergone and lived through, a distrust of it obviously would have developed.
Unfortunately, the trope has been Truth in Television
- there are cases of dentists who have done unnecessary work as a scam (usually on either poor child clients for Medicaid money, or alternately on rich, heavily insured patients), dentists who have sexually assaulted patients under the influence of anesthesia, and some dentists that are just
so incompetent at what they do that they have killed or seriously injured patients in their care and practiced anyway until stopped by regulatory boards or sued out of business. None of these may be named or listed as examples.
Also, the aforementioned regulatory boards and public listing of malpractice actions (and now, with the internet, patient reviews) makes it far harder for one of these to successfully
operate for years without some hint of the danger.
Compare Deadly Doctor
, Mad Doctor
, Morally Ambiguous Doctorate
, The Tooth Hurts
, Torture Technician
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- No complaints from the patient in this case, but the dentist in the cartoon for this commercial for a game called "Crocodile Dentist" seems to be having a little too much fun pulling the croc's teeth.
Anime and Manga
- Averted in an Archie Comics story. When Jughead gets a toothache, his friends drag him kicking and screaming to the dentist. From the waiting room, they listen to him howling in agony until Archie decides to intervene.
Archie: Doctor! What are you doing to him?
Dentist: I haven't done anything yet. I'm just taking X-rays.
- An early issue of Sonic the Hedgehog has a short story in which Dr. Robotnik orders to have a dentist badnik destroyed, because even he thinks it's too scary.
- In a Don Martin MAD book, Fester Bestertester goes to see a dentist who's rather enthusiastic about the prospect of having to drill. Although the preparation causes poor Fester a great deal of pain, when the drilling itself starts he remarks that he doesn't feel a thing. "Of course not," says the dentist, "but heaven help you if it were to slow down for even a second." Fester then reveals that he hasn't come for a check-up after all, but to deliver a note which says that at 2:30 P.M. the dentist's electricity will temporarily be turned off. Guess what time it is...
- In a Dave Berg "Lighter Side" strip, a patient asks how much it'll cost to have a tooth pulled. When the dentist tells him, the patient protests that that's way too much for only twenty seconds of work. "We can make some sort of agreement," says the dentist with an evil grin. "I'll pull it slower!"
- From the parody of the remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," one of characters suspects a dentist is a pod person because, during a root canal, he drilled into a live nerve and didn't even smile.
- In a Judge Dredd origin story, it is revealed that the father of the man who later became Judge Death was an extremely depraved dentist. Not only did he enjoy paralysing his patients instead of anesthesizing them, then tearing out every tooth they had, but he'd also murder them mercilessly to cure them of "brain worms". A healthy role model for the good Judge, no?
- Doctor Doom. Bob Doom. Enemy of She-Hulk.
- Invoked at the very beginning of Batman: Mad Love. It begins with Commissioner Gordon going for a dental check-up. He is literally sitting in the chair when he realizes something is... off about his dentist. Then iron rings clamp around him, and the very next panel is of The Joker turning around to reveal himself, holding an over-sized drill that he probably intends to do very, very bad things with...
- Parodied in Blue Beetle: when the evil entity Eclipso tries to manifest the darkest side of the the young hero's personality, thinking he will turn into a super menace, he transforms into... a dentist!
- One of Edika's short comics tells the story of a kindly well-meaning dentist who's not the least bit worried by his constant massive nervous spasms, and the horrors he inflicts with his drill.
- The issue #3 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) reveals that at one point the Cutie Mark Crusaders have tried getting their cutie marks in dentistry. Apparently, it went just as expected.
Scootaloo: I told you pulling teeth wasn't the answer to everything.
Sweetie Belle: (sheepish grin) I thought teeth grew back.
Scootaloo: No... No... Just... No, Sweetie Belle.
- There is a Russian cartoon called Captain Pronin where the hero is captured by his enemies, and the high ranking one explains that his job is making drugs, and his hobby is inhumane experiments in stomatology. Very few managed to survive more than two fillings...
- In the comedy The Dentist (1932), W.C. Fields wrestles with a recalcitrant patient and drags her around the room with her tooth in his pliers. One patient is so anxious she starts screaming as he tries to use the mirror tool and isn't even close to her mouth - screaming enough to send a patient in the waiting room out of there.
- Another patient, after about a minute of drilling, spits about a dozen teeth into a bowl.
- In the 1976 spy movie Marathon Man, former Nazi concentration camp dentist Szell (Laurence Olivier) tortures an American secret agent's brother with "oral surgery" in order to find the location of some precious gems, while repeatedly asking him "Is it safe?"
- This scene from Marathon Man is parodied in Hot Shots.
- Gremlins 2: The New Batch has a Shout-Out to Marathon Man when Daffy Gremlin tries to do forced dentistry on Zack while asking "Is is safe".
- In the 1996 horror film The Dentist, Dr. Alan Feinstone loses his mind after learning of his wife's infidelity and, hallucinating filthy, rotten mouths, takes it out on his staff and patients before finally being committed. He escapes to wreak further molar mayhem in The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself. Loosely based on the Real Life serial killer dentist Glennon Engleman.
- The Mad Doctor from Bloodsucking Freaks works for Master Sardu, and he also rips one of the slave's teeth out and drinks her brains.
- Willy Wonka, in the 2005 film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, reveals that his wacky obsession with sweets is a rebellion against his father (played by Christopher Lee), an obsessive dentist who forbade all candy and made Willy wear horrible braces and headgear. Though their eventual reconciliation shows that he was just an Overprotective Dad, rather than genuinely demented individual. Also, young Willy apparently did have some real problem with his teeth, since old Wilbur actually recognises his son from his unique dental condition decades later.
- The short film On Edge starring Doug Bradley of Hellraiser fame. A patient gets er, impatient and wanders into the office ahead of his appointment to find a dentist all too willing to see him. As subsequent conversation reveals some issues in this dentist's past the patient is made painfully aware he should have waited his turn.
- Kalgan's infamous "ancient dentistry" torture scene from Space Mutiny.
- In the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Bob Lawrence and a friend visit such a dentist office in search of his missing daughter. The friend's visit behind the door of the examining room is played for laughs. He comes out nursing his jaw after having a perfectly healthy tooth pulled. Lawrence's visit is much more sinister. He struggles with the doctor, who tries to kill him, and then puts him to sleep with his own gas.
- Sam Waterston's dentist in Serial Mom revels in his patients' pain, although it's supposed to be educational. Of course he's not the Ax-Crazy of the movie.
- In Phantom of the Paradise, all of the inmates at the prison Winslow Leach is sent to have their teeth removed and replaced with metal ones, because of an experimental health procedure funded by the Big Bad.
- Dr. Farb in Roger Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors. Unlike his counterpart from the musical, Orin Schrivello, Farb is not quite as sadistic and has a slightly smaller role, but still finds enjoyment in brutalizing patients. He has a magazine named "Pain" for his patients to read in the waiting room.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has Arthur Weasley saying "I understand other Muggles are afraid of you," to Hermione's parents who are both dentists.
- The dentist in My Mom's a Werewolf is a little too excited to try to file down Leslie's teeth.
- Julia in Horrible Bosses is depraved in a different way than usual — her job affords her daily access to handsome men she can drug unconscious, and she takes advantage of this at least twice.
- The dentist who serves as the main antagonist in She Woke Up Pregnant is also of this sort. When one of his victims winds up pregnant because of this, she decides to fight back.
- Igor Peabody, from the Problem Child series of films, was the principal of an orphanage in the first installment and the principal of a school in the second. In the third, already showing a severe lack of sanity from all the headaches Junior has caused him, he becomes a dentist, and vents his frustration on his patients, but specially Junior, with whom he has a bone to pick.
- Peabody's sadism is made explicit in the second film, when he reveals why he switched jobs in the first place - he hates kids.
- Dr. King Schultz from Django Unchained is a possible subversion. He is a former dentist who turned to bounty hunting, but is also the by far most moral and compassionate individual in the film. However, this is a Quentin Tarantino film, so "most moral" really doesn't mean that much. Lest we forget, he shows no hesitation in gunning down a man in front of his young son for money.
- Dr. Jane Payne, from the children's book series Wayside School, likes to pull patients' teeth whether necessary or not, in order to charge them more.
- Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, the Old Firm, from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. "Obstacles obliterated, nuisances eradicated, bothersome limbs removed, and tutelary dentistry ''.
- In the James Herriot book All Things Wise And Wonderful, the RAF has a good dentist and a bad dentist. James is sent to the bad one who proceeds to extact one of James's teeth with a hammer and chisel.
- In one of the pieces in Margaret Atwood's The Tent, young boys who shoot animals for fun are described as tending to become either warlord henchmen or dentists.
- One poem by Shel Silverstein has a dentist going to town on a crocodile, even pulling out a tooth that didn't need to be taken out. He says "What's one crocodile's tooth, more or less?" By the end of the poem, he is eaten in a single bite by the crocodile, and the poem ends asking "What's one dentist, more or less?"
- In one Dan Shamble Zombie PI book, Dan recalls a story told to him by his friend on the force Mc Goo about a dentist who collected teeth, going as far as to steal them right from his patients mouths. When the insurance companies noticed that too many people were filling out forms for dentures, said dentist tried to flee the country, only to be held up at the airport when the fillings in the stolen teeth set off the metal detectors.
- In A Harvest Of War, Guinevere Thyll. However her dentistry (and medical practice in general) is separate from her depravity, mostly. She won't back down on performing extremely painful procedures without anaesthesia, however - if there isn't any available or the patient refuses it.
Live Action TV
- In Married... with Children, Al's new dentist, after the two have established a rapport, promises to go easy on him while drilling...until a call from his ex-wife's attorney sends him over the edge.
- Dr. Oliver Bloom in "Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist". The episode has Monk get tortured by Dr. Oliver Bloom, who has killed an armored car robber he stole some bearer bonds from, and wants to know whether the guy he plans to fence the bonds to is under police surveillance. Dr. Bloom and his assistant Teri even compare the torture session to the Marathon Man dentist torture.
- In Seinfeld, Jerry attends an "adults only" dentist who doesn't allow kids in his office, keeps copies of Penthouse in the lobby, and routinely swaps nurses with his fellow dentists. After waking up from an anaesthesia induced coma, Jerry is under the distinct feeling he's been violated. Later on, his suspicions are confirmed. In another episode, the same dentist inflicts pain on Jerry after finding out Jerry was telling "anti-dentite" jokes (You know what the difference is between a dentist and sadist? Newer magazines.)
- Alias has a torturer who removes peoples' teeth (including one of Sydney's), known at Television Without Pity as "The Sadistic Dentist of Asian Persuasion".
- Doesn't fit this trope perfectly, but on Desperate Housewives, Orson is a dentist and is certainly "depraved": He helped his mother dispose of a body and attempted to commit vehicular homicide, which later made him lose his license.
- Dexter: One of the men from the group of rapists is a dentist. Though we never actually see his depravity show up in his work.
- A Lighter and Softer version appears in the Nickelodeon comedy series Turkey Television, with the dentist making small talk with his patients while handcuffing them to the chair.
- A prank on Prank Patrol involved a visit to the dentist where the dentist turned out to be one of these.
- In Louie, the title character visits a dentist that specializes in treating people with odontophobia. After giving him an excessive dose of nitrous oxide and an unspecified pill, Louie has a series of hallucinations ending in the dentist sensually inserting a banana into his mouth. When he suddenly snaps out of the dream state, the dentist is seen hastily zipping up his fly.
- On The Golden Girls, Rose is groped by her dentist after a procedure. Uncertain, she declines to complain. But when he tries it again during a return visit, the infuriated woman vows that she will file a report with the state dental board.
- A both funny and creepy version on Freaks and Geeks: shortly after seeing his friend Neal's dad out in public with a woman who is not his wife, Sam (who is fourteen) has a dentist appointment. Neal's dad is his dentist. Once he has him in the chair, Dr. Schweiber starts telling him he didn't understand what he saw and asking if he's mentioned it to anybody, and ends up taking about how lonely you get when you're older you get lonely and start to feel you've been missing something in your life… all while Sam lies there froglike with a big plastic thing in his mouth.
- A few episodes of the Game Show Finders Keepers had contestants search for hidden objects in the dental practice of Dr. Frankenstein, reinforcing the scare factor with the occasional sound effect of a dentist's drill and someone screaming.
- Referenced in one verse of the Owl City song "Dental Care".
"Have a seat", he says pleasantly
As he shakes my hand and practically laughs at me
"Open up nice and wide", he says peering in
And with a smirk he says, "Don't have a fit
This'll just pinch a bit", as he tries not to grin
- The Far Side:
- In one strip, a boy is waiting with his mother in a dentist's waiting room. Through a glass panel in the door, he sees that the dentist is actually a monster whose human face is only a rubber mask.
- Another strip had a dentist father keeping a chair in his house's basement so he could give his son an "appointment" as punishment.
- Another shows the patient with mouth agape and full of instruments, while the dentist says "Just out of curiosity, we're going to see if we can also cram this tennis ball in there."
- In a Hägar the Horrible strip, Hamlet tells his friends who, like him, are all the children of Vikings, of his ambition to be a dentist when he grows up. They recoil with horror when he explains that a dentist "pulls people's teeth out."
- In 1995, there was a hulking brute of a man whose gimmick was that of being a depraved dentist called Isaac Yankem, DDS (ironically, Isaac's own teeth looked horrible). It wasn't exactly a roaring success. Fortunately, the man behind the gimmick, Glen Jacobs, would go on to be considerably more popular as "The Big Red Machine" Kane.
- Arch Oboler, creator of the vintage radio horror show Lights Out, did a creepy little number called "A Day at the Dentist's". Stephen King discusses it in his book Danse Macabre.
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay had, in its first edition, an adventure called The Dying of the Light. The Big Bad was called "Zahnarzt", which is the german word for 'dentist'. Sadly he wasn't one, but the name cannot be anything other than intentional.For German players, the name was a spoiler, as the aadventure was mostly a treasure hunt for one of his teeth.
- Orin Scrivello of Little Shop of Horrors, from whom the page quote is taken. This leather-clad hoodlum literally gets off on torturing patients. In The Movie, he meets his match in masochistic patient Arthur Denton, whom he eventually throws out of his office in disgust. The roles were memorably played by Steve Martin (seen in the picture above, taken from a different scene) and Bill Murray respectively. A great bit is the scene with the Braces of Orthodontic Overkill in the film adaptation, whereupon it is implied that he removed the jaw of a kid.
- Damn Yankees alludes to this in the encore verse of "Those Were The Good Old Days":
It was absolutely killing,
When dentists first were drilling,
And the longer it took, why, the more I'd praise;
Ah, that era of pain,
Long before Novocaine,
Ha, ha, ha, ha, those were the good old days!
- In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a frequently-cut part of "The Contest" has Sweeney Todd and Pirelli competing to pull someone's tooth the quickest. Todd pulls another quick win while the show-off Pirelli struggles to extract a tooth from his stooge Tobias, who moans throughout the procedure he doesn't really need.
- In one of their developer videos, Dead Space's developers said that they based the lights in the Ishimura off of the light that dentists place above their patients, due to the inherent fear they know many people have of it.
- Dr. Loboto in Psychonauts is a mad dentist who harvests brains.
- The unnamed dentist in ToeJam & Earl, who is also a Giggling Villain.
- Zahin Schmartz (Punny Name and Bilingual Bonus) the dwarven dentist in The Witcher isn't a villain, but takes unabashed pleasure in his patient's pain. When the city is on fire, he comfortably sets up shop in a torture chamber because it already had all the tools he needed. Also collects teeth, and has an academic appreciation for monster teeth.
- The antagonist of Killer Escape 2 who gets extreme pleasure off of killing teenagers by yanking out their teeth, inflicting painful surgeries, and leaves the bodies with a pillow and a coin under their heads, giving her the nickname "The Tooth Fairy".
- One of (many) recurring background characters in Sluggy Freelance is Nana Avarre, the "angsty dentist" who combines stalking, Goth, and dentistry into one dangerous package. She likes to work without painkillers, but she still manages to get patients to return because her waiting room has arcade games. She was also one of Riff's old flames. So terrifying is she that when Torg was attempting to sabotage Leo, then a boyfriend of Zoe's, he gave him a coupon for a free cleaning from her office. Which actually went to Kent, whose screams were heard outside the clinic. They're dating now.
- Dr. Rabbit has become this via Memetic Mutation.
- Dr. Wolfe in The Simpsons episode "Last Exit to Springfield." When Ralph Wiggum claims to brush regularly, Wolfe says, in a Boris Karloff-like voice, "Why must you turn my office into a house of lies?" and proceeds to scare him straight with the horrific Big Book of British Smiles. He then terrifies Lisa and Marge with an over-the-top computer simulation of what Lisa will look like unless she gets braces. And when Wolfe does outfit her with braces and headgear, Back-Alley Doctor style, she reacts like the Joker.
- Subverted in Johnny Bravo in that the title character's dentist seems to like to torture very much, which causes Johnny to run away and cause havoc in the hospital. Then after he gets captured, the dentist works very efficiently and cures Johnny in seconds.
- Hermey from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a subversion. He is a heroic character, who helps in the defeat, or in other words, the Bumble becoming a good guy.
- Dr. Bender, the dentist in The Fairly Oddparents is this (and his son is not much better.)
- Variant: In Codename: Kids Next Door, the villain Nightbrace acts as an evil dentist. His secret identity, however, he is a sweetshop owner who was expelled form dental college after trying to put braces on babies. (The greatest irony is, in his first appearance, he is defeated because a licensed dentist helps the heroes.)
- Subverted in an episode of Justice Friends, when Krunk has a piece of potato chip lodged in his tooth and Major Glory refuses to let him go see a dentist. After watching Krunk be subjected to various unpleasant and unsuccessful methods to correct the problem, Valhallen simply takes him to the dentist, where the chip is removed painlessly in a few seconds. Played straight when Major Glory is forced to go to the dentist himself at the end of the episode, but only because he refused to go to regular check ups and thus had lots of cavities.
- Metalocalypse plays with this trope, with Nathan fearing that his dentist will try to kill him. He eventually gets over it, and instead manages to befriend him instead, realizing that he actually does need a friend. He still kills himself after the credits roll when out hunting with Nathan later, after commenting on how he appreciates their friendship.
- On Cow and Chicken, the Devil is some kind of self-appointed orthodontic policeman who fits the entire town into painful, elaborate braces and headgear.
- In Storm Hawks, its implied that all Wallop dentists are like this.
- One of Tim Burton's early cartoons had a Mad Scientist who's revealed to be a dentist.
- Doug had an episode where Doug had a cavity, which featured him and Skeeter going to see a Smash Adams film where Smash fights an evil dentist named Dr. Decay, a spoof of Dr. Szell from Marathon Man (right down to going "Is it safe?"). After Doug gets a cavity, he sees the name of the dentist he is going to see is "Dr. D. Kay," and imagines they'll be a sadistic loony like the one in the movie. Instead, Dr. Kay turns out to be a kindly woman who painlessly fixes Doug's cavity.
- In Dinosaucers, Styraco of the Tyrannos was originally a dentist working for Pinchem, Pullem and Yankem.
- In Dan Vs. "The Dentist", Dan's dentist seems overly friendly at first, but is later revealed to be a sadistic supervillain who deliberately damages his patients' — who are children — teeth, forcing their parents to make repeated and expensive visits. He also plans to implant pain-inducing mind control devices into the teeth of world leaders so he can rule the world. It doesn't help that the dentist is voiced by Mark Hamill, who also voiced the Joker, who as mentioned above invoked this trope as well.
- One Goof Troop family album episode featured Prehistoric Goofy putting Prehistoric Pete through a great deal of abuse in various failed attempts to pull a bad tooth so Pete wouldn't have to go to the dentist. In the end, Pete ends up at the dentist by accident, and he removes the tooth painlessly. The horrific drill-like thing that so terrified Pete was actually a watering can used on the dentist's potted plants.
- Zorak plays one in a skit in the first Brak Presents the Brak Show Starring Brak special.
Don't worry, kid! I'm a professional. Brak:
A professional what
No, Dr Szell, I don't believe it is safe.