Famous people you didn’t know were dentists

by Robert Milton

Who says dentistry isn’t exciting? Our noble profession has captured the hearts and imaginations of some pretty interesting people over the years. Granted, eventually these folks turned to other less fascinating professions—like acting, gun fighting, inventing, painting and saving the country—but still, they all had their “roots” (pardon the pun) in the enviable art of dentistry. Just check out this list of people you didn’t know were dentists:

Edgar_Buchanan· Edgar Buchanan: This popular character actor started out as a successful dentist before moving to California in 1939. Although he co-starred in countless movies over the years, Buchanan was probably best known for his memorable roles in 1960s sitcoms like “Petticoat Junction,” “Green Acres” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Once he was bitten by the acting bug, he left dentistry. But, interestingly enough, his wife actually took over his successful practice after he retired.


dholliday• John Henry “Doc” Holliday: You may remember Doc Holliday for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and their famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but Holliday was actually a dentist who was trained in Pennsylvania and developed a booming little practice in Atlanta. After a short time, Holliday contracted tuberculosis and he was forced to leave his practice and move out West, where the rest is, well…history.



• Mark Spitz: Many of us know Mark Spitz from his record-breaking  7 gold medals won during the 1972 Olympic Games. What you may not know is that Spitz was actually accepted into dental school earlier on, but he decided to pursue his Olympic swimming career instead.


zgrey• Zane Grey: If you’re a fan of Western novels, then you’re no stranger to the name Zane Grey. Before writing over 80 books, Pearl Zane Grey was a practicing dentist in New York. Unfortunately, his love for dentistry decayed and he quickly abandoned the field when he became a published author. The lackluster Pearl went on to be one of history’s first millionaire authors. We can only hope none of his patients ever felt pangs while at the dental clinic as he did.


Thomas_Bramwell_Welch• Thomas Welch: While it may seem ironic that the creator of a company specializing in sugar-laden fruit juices was also a dentist, that’s exactly what happened with Thomas Welch. The founder of Welch’s was a dentist before he retired and gained some notoriety for inventing a pasteurization process for grape juice that kept it from fermenting. Welch’s intention was to create a non-alcoholic wine that could be used at the sacrament in churches.

trumpet• Miles Henry Davis:
The father of Miles Davis, who is arguably one of the most famous and influential musicians of the last hundred years, was actually a dentist. While we’re not sure whether Miles Jr. was ever tempted to go into his dad’s profession, we’re glad he didn’t. Miles Sr. bought his son his first trumpet when he was a small boy.


paul-revere-large• Paul Revere: This famous Revolutionary War hero made a midnight ride just before the battles of Concord and Lexington to warn people that, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” If he were advertising his day job, he might just as easily called out, “The dentist is coming! The dentist is coming!” Revere was a skilled silversmith who also advertised his services as a dentist and was known for making false teeth for his patients.

Keep this list of famous dentists handy for the next time someone hints that dentistry isn’t the most exciting profession. After all, if we were successful in attracting this list of characters in the past, you never know who’ll be among our ranks in the future!

Robert Milton blogs for Austin Dental Center, PC, and will also write compelling content for your practice website if you’d like to benefit from his extensive knowledge base, enthusiasm for dentistry, and killer smile.





Trish adds: thanks to Robert for researching this article – I always had a warm mushy place in my heart for Doc Holliday, and was drawn to visit his gravesite in Glenwood Springs a summer ago. Here’s the pic with me and his…(wait for it….) TOMBSTONE! ahHAHAHAHAHAha!






  1. says

    Mark Spitz was accepted to dental school? Damn. I wouldn’t have minded him peering into my oral cavity, know what I’m saying?

    Hi, Robert. Welcome to DentalBuzz.

    • Robert says

      Meh. Spitz doesn’t really do it for me, but I guess if you’re into that whole athletic-type thing and the “oh, look at my svelte body” sorta whatnot…

      Thanks, Eva! ;)

  2. Todd says

    How about major league pitcher Jim Lonborg who won the Cy Young award in 1967 while with the Red Sox? He went to Tufts Dental School after retiring from baseball.
    Also, Mark Zuckerberg’s (Facebook) dad Ed is a dentist in New York.

    • Robert says

      Simple. I’m not a Sox fan, so he didn’t “meet the requirements” to be listed. All kidding aside, there were several others that could’ve made this list and all interesting in their own way. Lonborg, the farmer guy in Grant Wood’s famous painting ‘American Gothic’…

      I left Dr. Zuckerberg off, because I figured this crowd would already be familiar with that one.

      Thanks for adding to this list, Todd!

    • Robert says

      My pleasure, Pam! You’re right. Some of these could be great examples of how you should pursue your happiness even if you still have dental school debt.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  3. says

    Les Horvath won the Heisman Trophy in 1944. Graduate of The Ohio State University College of Dentistry Class of 1945. I read a story that he was in the clinic see patients when he heard that he won.

  4. John says

    Bill Baker, who played defense on the Gold Medal-winning 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team (Miracle on Ice) and in the NHL, is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Minnesota.

    • Robert says

      Another notable athlete-dental pro! I feel like I should throw in a non-athlete. Well she probably works out regularly, but Karent on Real Housewives of Miami is a dentist. A dentist to famous people.

      (I don’t watch the show. I know a lady who does.)

  5. says

    This is a very interesting compilation of famous people who were dentists. I enjoyed reading it. And yes! I very much agree that Paul Revere does look like Jack Black. He may actually play the role if ever there’s an American history movie in the making soon. I’m sure it will be a comedy!

    Doug Horstman
    President, Encompasse Tours
    FACES Ski
    “Come to the 26th Annual FACES Conference, for Dental CME”

  6. Rick Ghormley says

    Leave us not forget Dr. Cary Middlecoff, a practicing dentist who gave it all up to become a champion professional golfer.

    • Trish says

      How about the father of the Father of Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg’s dad Ed is still practicing dentistry in the same house he’s been in since his kids were youngsters.

  7. Michael Till says

    Dr. George Franklin Grant, the second African-American to graduate from Harvard Dental School invented the golf tee. He received U.S. patent No. 638,920, the world’s first patent for a golf tee, in 1899.


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