The University Record, July 19, 1993

Museum offers look at pre-Novocaine days

By Andrea Jackson
Record Special Writer

Are you afraid of the dentist? A new University museum may help you get over some of your fears.

The School of Dentistry recently opened the Gordon H. Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, offering a special perspective on the world of dentistry before electricity, Novocaine and other improvements that today’s patients take for granted.

The largest displays are of two historical operative rooms. The first room re-creates the 19th-century pre-electric period, when patients encountered candle lighting and in some instances, individually adapted dental instruments.

Museum curator Jane Becker reports that “children are fascinated by the unusual instruments and toothpaste containers of all shapes. There is also a dental chair that looks like a platform rocker. They also enjoy an exhibit of postcards sent by dentists to their patients with cartoon characters, storybook characters, animals and brightly colored graphics.

The adults appreciate the detailed art work and advertising slogans, which appear on a collection of porcelain dentifrice containers.”

These toothpaste containers range from cardboard to tin. The containers are on loan from Ron Berris and his wife, Maggie, of West Bloomfield.

The second operating room re-creates the advancements electricity made in dentistry, which includes the Victor “shock proof” X-ray machine and a foot-operated engine with a small motor attached that represents an early attempt to adapt equipment to electricity as a source of power.

Gordon H. Sindecuse donated funds to start the U-M museum and to continue to care for it. He graduated in 1921 from the Dental School, and practiced dentistry in Jackson. He is retired and lives in Sarasota, Fla.

The museum purchased a complete collection of historical dental artifacts from Jack Gottschalk of Cincinnati, who collected the artifacts over 35 year period.

The museum is located on the ground and first floor foyers of the W.K. Kellogg Institute, at Fletcher and North University. Hours are 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Monday–Friday; 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday. Use the School of Dentistry’s Fletcher Street entrance.

For information or to arrange tours, contact Becker, 763-0767.