Dentistry and Art: The Shoe is on the Other Foot by Johan Christian Schoeller

Johan Christian Schoeller was an Austrian painter and engraver who lived from 1782 to 1851. He resided in a number of cities throughout Europe but spent most of his adult life in Vienna. However, dentistry – along with tooth pain – does not discriminate based on country of origin- so he was experienced in observing scenes like this:

The shoe is on the Other Foot engraving by Johan Christian Schoeller

The Shoe is on the Other Foot – an engraving by Johan Christian Schoeller

In the above scene, you can see a patient holding a towel next to his face. The “dentist” has apparently extracted the wrong tooth – much to the dismay of the seated patient. Behind the “dentist” is another individual suffering a toothache – as evidenced by the red bandanna/scarf around his head. In the background, you can see several skulls, books, and other tools used by the “dentist.”

What’s missing from this scene which was created in 1839? X-rays, gloves, local anesthetic, sterile instruments, and about a hundred other technologies that were introduced since then. This work can be found in the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland.