You may recognize this image. It’s the emblem of dentistry. Ever wonder if there’s more to this image than meets the eye? There certainly is!
The Triangle and Circle:
There are two Greek letters found in this image: Delta and Omicron. Delta is the triangle, representing dentistry. Omicron for Odont (tooth) is firmly interwoven with Delta. The official color of Dentistry, lilac, vibrantly fills omicron. Lilac was chosen as the color of dentistry in 1897 by the National Association of Dental Faculties.
The Leaves and Berries:
Look carefully at the background and you will notice leaves and berries. This image has 32 leaves and 20 berries. The 32 leaves are to represent the 32 teeth in our permanent dentition. You guessed it: the 20 berries equate to the 20 primary teeth.
The focal point of this image is a serpent wrapped around a cautery. The serpent, although poison-bearing and sly, subsumes Grecian and Biblical representations of health.
The Greeks held that Asclepius slithered into a serpent to heal the people suffering from the Roman plague that covered the land. The image you see above represents the Rod of Asclepius.
Serpent representations of health are consistent in the Old Testament as well. The Bible reads: “Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9)
So, you see, the emblem bears a much deeper meaning than a simple glance would reveal. Since 1965, this emblem has represented dentistry when the American Dental Association (ADA) deemed this the official emblem. Upon further inspection, the emblem is long-rooted in history and symbolism to represent our profession.
~Courtney Worlinsky, Florida ’14
About Courtney Worlinsky
Dr. Courtney Worlinsky completed a Bachelor of Science at University of South Florida Honors College in 2010. She is is a graduate of University of Florida College of Dentistry and currently working in private practice. Courtney previously served as ADPAC Chair for ASDA.