Can John Stamos improve dentistry's image?

2010 10 15 10 07 34 739 2010 10 10 15 Stamos Glee Thumb

While medical doctors are portrayed as benevolent healers on TV and in the movies, dentists are more often demonized as pitiless, incompetent -- or both.

But there is hope that heartthrob John Stamos' role as a likeable singing dentist on the hit TV show "Glee" will transform the traditional cultural perception of dentists as pain-inflicting sadists.

Early comedies lampooned dentists as in Charlie Chaplin's 1919's "Laffing Gas." One hilarious scene in 1932's "The Dentist" featured a patient wrapping her legs around dentist W.C. Fields as he struggled to pull her tooth.

But then came Lawrence Olivier's unforgettably fiendish turn as dentist-turned-torturer in "Marathon Man." It was followed by the black comedy musical "The Little Shop of Horrors," featuring a black-leather clad Steve Martin as a crazed nitrous-snorting dentist. A dentist is even the bad guy in "Finding Nemo."

Now along comes Stamos, famed for his TV roles on "ER" and "Full House," who made his debut as Dr. Carl Howell, D.D.S., in a memorable episode featuring an anesthesia-fueled Britney Spears dream sequence.

John Stamos as Carl Howell, D.D.S., in the hit TV show 'Glee.' Image courtesy of Fox.John Stamos as Carl Howell, D.D.S., in the hit TV show "Glee." Image courtesy of Fox.
John Stamos as Carl Howell, D.D.S., in the hit TV show "Glee." Image courtesy of Fox.

Stamos has a recurring role on "Glee" this season as the love interest of guidance counselor Emma (Jayma Mays) and the rival of Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison). Word is that Schuester and Stamos will eventually settle things the way "Glee" men often do -- with the inevitable sing off.

In numerous interviews, Stamos has described his character as cool but a bit goofy, too. "He's sort of the coolest guy in a really, really small pond," he said in one interview. "So that gives me a chance to be sort of dorky. I think he thinks he's a lot cooler than he is, which is fun to play."

The role could bring greater attention to a number of oral health conditions, noted Harold Katz, D.D.S., in a recent blog on "With visions of dashingly handsome dentists in their minds, oral health providers may at least see an uptick in female patients," he wrote.

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