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Extracting a laugh: dental cartoons

Blog Author Susie Sanderson

Blog Date 13/09/2018

Extract - Crocodile Dentist Chair bird original cartoon artwork


​This autumn London's leading political cartoon gallery is tackling dentistry.


Now I know 'dentistry' and 'comedy' are not necessarily two words that some colleagues want to see going hand in hand.

Perhaps it's the feeling we're all too often the butt of someone else's joke. It might even be the sort of headlines we can see. The Daily Mail front page lead "Is your dentist a natural born killer" represented a high watermark.

But we as a profession have certainly made our mark on popular culture. Yes, we can claim Doc Holiday as one of our own but there's also that spectrum that runs from the US executioner of Cecil the Lion, through to Steve Martin's singing sadist in Little Shop of Horrors and Larry Olivier's less musical sadist in Marathon Man.

For some reason dentistry captures the public imagination in ways not all dentists would welcome. And many colleagues are left wondering if a few creatives out there are yet to get over a difficult visit as children. 

But we can take pride in the fact that dentists and dentistry do actually lend themselves to comedy. And I'm delighted to have opened the 'Extracting a Laugh' show, which uses the rich imagery of this profession for full comic effect.

Because cartoonists have used dental imagery to poke fun at powerful, the public and at this profession. And sometimes simply because it's just plain funny.

Yes, it might be the drills, the occasional discomfort, or the transactions that accompany most visits. For some dentistry can still be a potent symbol of money, mouths or misery.

But we're not defensive. We know what CQC reports tell us, and what our patients think. And certainly, you're never going to fill a gallery with cartoons on our primary care colleagues in pharmacy or optics….

Yes, the jokes can sometimes be at our expense. But we can take some comfort we're a profession worth telling a few jokes about.


Susie Sanderson

BDA President, 2018-19

Extracting a Laugh is free to view at the Political Cartoon Gallery, 16 Lower Richmond Road, Putney, London SW15 1JP, from 13 September to 30 October 2018.


Original works



BDA Museum

The BDA Museum has one of the largest collections of dental heritage in the UK. Spanning the 17th century to the present day, highlights of the collection include dental chairs, drills, oral hygiene products, and the infamous 'Waterloo' teeth. Pop in and see for yourself.