May Monthly Gathering – Tales of the Tooth Worm and other Oral Oddities: A History of Dentistry

Ever wonder what actually causes problems with your teeth? Once upon a time, “Tooth Worms” — miniscule, yet relentless pests — were thought to be responsible for this widespread malady. This belief has persisted since ancient times in cultures around the world. William Shakespeare even made reference to the baneful beasts in his play “Much Ado about Nothing”, where he said, “What, sigh for a toothache? [It] is but a humor, or a worm.” In 1713, Lady Wentworth, mother of the Earl of Strafford, sent her friends and family members wolves’ teeth set in gold necklaces, to alleviate their infant children’s teething pains. And the ancient Greeks used donkey’s milk as a mouthwash to strengthen the gums and teeth. (That one isn’t quite as popular today.)

So how did we get from these ancient superstitious beliefs to modern dental practices, like X-Rays, composite fillings, dental implants, and Hand Set Diamond Custom Grillz? (By the way, if you haven’t seen these, check out LeBron James’s Nike swoosh.) 

To help us learn more and about dentistry, from Tooth Worms to today, join us at 7:00 p.m. (EDT), on Saturday, May 20, when we’ll hear from Tamara Barnes, Curator of the Sindecuse Museum at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. Ms. Barnes will help us to extract the history of dentistry, while filling in the ways in which the Sindecuse Museum makes its collection of more than 25,000 historical tools, furniture, memorabilia, and more, relevant to audiences today. She assures us that this will be an enjoyable educational experience for all, thus proving, once and for all, that learning does not have to be like pulling teeth.

Tamara Barnes has been Curator of the Sindecuse Museum since December of 2021, following four years as Assistant Director for Material Culture at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, where she managed the exhibit and collections departments. She has more than 20 years of broad experience in museum management for arts, cultural and historical societies in Michigan, New Jersey and New York, among other locations.

The Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry is one of only a handful of museums throughout the world devoted to preserving and exhibiting the history of dentistry. Ms. Barnes manages all aspects of the museum, including exhibitions, programs, communications, collection stewardship and acquisition, research, and presentations. She also sets long-term strategy for the museum.

Tamara Barnes holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in history from Western Michigan University, as well as a Master’s of Arts in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Cooperstown, New York.

Please note that this program will be presented live and on Zoom. You can attend the live presentation, for a chance to also mingle with your fellow Mensans and guests, at our usual location:

Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church in Southfield
23925 Northwestern Highway
Southfield, MI 48075

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The program begins at 7:00 p.m. Admission: $4 for Mensa Members, $5 for non-Mensans. 

Following the presentation, please join us for dinner at Buddy’s Pizza, located at 31646 Northwestern Highway, in Farmington Hills, just northeast of Middlebelt Road.

If you’d prefer to participate on Zoom, you’ll need to pre-register by clicking on the following link: , The event’s Zoom URL and instructions for connecting will only be sent to those who are pre-registered. The Zoom room opens at 6:30 p.m. for mingling. There is no charge for the Zoom presentation.