By Joe Rosen
Reed Travel Features
"For I would have you know, Sancho, that a mouth without
molars is like a mill without a stone, and a tooth is more precious
than a diamond." -- Cervantes, "Don Quixote," 1605.
BALTIMORE -- Yes, I know, your Baltimore-bound clients want to
see an Orioles game at Camden Yards, and their kids want to splash
with the fishes at the National Aquarium. But no calls for the Dr.
Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry? No interest in
orthodontics? Pyorrhea? Teeth scalers? People just don't know how
to have fun.
Located here on the campus of the University of Maryland -- not
so incidentally (get it? in-ci-dentally?) the site of the world's
first dental school -- the museum celebrates man-kind's triumph
over the ordinary toothache and the extraordinary overbite and has
a few open-mouthed laughs while doing so. All the immortals are
enshrined here, a veritable dental hall of fame: Charles (the
X-Man) Kells, who blazed trails in X-ray diagnostics; Willoughby
Dayton Miller, who filled a void in the study of cavities; the Wild
West's O. A. Kenck, of "have pliers, will travel" fame, and Clifton
O. Dummett, smart enough to be the youngest dental school dean
ever. Among the missing: a bust of my uncle, Dr. Mort, the record
holder for most extractions in a 162-game season.
A total of 750 artifacts and graphics are on view, from the
gapped toothbrush of Mad Magazine's gap-toothed Alfred E. Newman to
George Washington's ivory -- not wood -- dentures. Also featured
among the artfully mounted exhibits, which span two floors and
7,000 square feet of space, are interactive displays, historical
artifacts, primitive dental devices, vintage TV commercials and the
re-creation of the temporary office of an itinerant dentist.
One exhibit enables visitors to watch film clips of "Hollywood
Dentists," among them Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals, Charlie
Chaplin and W. C. Fields. In his cinematic snippet, an exercise in
sado-eroticism that must have caught the censors napping, Fields
wields a heavy hand with an achingly vulnerable female patient.
Fields' depiction of a dirty dentist aside, kids will love the
museum, which highlights exhibits designed to delight, engage and
educate them. Who knows: Impressionable youngsters just might wind
up ready to brush three times a day and floss after meals.
Admission is $4.50 for adults (ages 19 to 59), $2.50 for youths
(ages 7 to 18), senior citizens and students with ID, and free for
children age 6 and under. The museum is open Wednesdays through
Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. For more
information and group rates, call (410) 706-0600; fax (410)