Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Dentistry by candlelight

Thanks to modern anesthesia a visit to the dentist is now a pretty painless affair. This was not the case until relatively recently, and certainly not so in the seventeenth century, when dental services were often rendered by itinerant barber-surgeons. In the painting by Leiden artist Gerrit Dou, the tooth puller is extracting a tooth in semi-darkness as no better light seems to be available. The patient is clearly not likely to enjoy the procedure and a woman, perhaps the wife, is holding his hand to give him courage, for he needs any help he can get.

Dentist by Candlelight by Gerrit Dou. c. 1660–65. Kimbell Art Museum.



Winter 2020  |  Sections  |  Vignettes at Large

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