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Stephen King loves this dental thriller

Did you know that one of Stephen’s King’s ten favourite books is about a dentist? Specifically, a turn-of-the-century novel about a San Francisco dentist, McTeague, that’s become a minor classic of American literature.

What has changed in dentistry since the time that the novel was published in 1899, and what is still the same? Here are some things depicted in the novel that are still true today:

  • The basic tools used by McTeague are still in use today. This includes a dental “engine” (i.e. a drill), forceps for extracting teeth, and a reclining dental chair.
  • When Trina visits his office with a dental emergency (a knocked-out tooth), the treatment plan proposed by McTeague would not be unreasonable today: he suggests reinforcing the two adjacent teeth with a post-and-crown, and creating a bridge to replace the missing tooth. Having said that, most dentists nowadays would propose dental implants instead.
  • McTeague has a giant golden molar hanging outside his office, which is not unlike the signage used by many dentists today.

Here are some things portrayed in the novel that have changed:

  • McTeague exclusively uses gold for fillings. While gold fillings still exist today, most patients prefer white porcelain fillings, which more closely match the color of the original tooth.
  • McTeague uses creosote resin to prevent necrosis. This material is no longer used, as it is toxic.
  • Emergency dentist McTeague marries one of his patients, Trina. Such relationships are banned today.