Kentucky regulators publish a laundry list of requirements to get a license to practice dentistry. At the top: Applicants must read, speak, and write English at least at the ninth-grade level. (The regulations don’t say anything about understanding patients’ garbled answers to questions asked during exams.) License applicants also must pass a nationwide criminal background check through the FBI or the Kentucky State Police. Would that have tripped up evil Dr. Christian Szell? More on that in a moment.
And they’re subject to discipline by the 10-member Board of Dentistry. It hasn’t dinged any this year, and only disciplined one in all of 2015. But in 2010, the board went after 72 dentists — far and away more than any other year. The board’s records don’t say why.
Nationwide, dentistry is one of the more segregated occupations. African-Americans hold 11.7% of all occupations nationwide, but are just 2.9% of dentists, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, for last year. They are just 3.6% of all dental hygienists, and 9.6% of dental assistants. (At the other extreme, they’re overrepresented among barbers, holding 40.7% of all.) Boulevard is trying to find comparable figures for Kentucky and for Louisville.
Scared of dentists? You’re not alone; up to 10% of U.S. adults are so afraid, they avoid dental care at all costs. Laurence Olivier only advanced those fears with his Oscar-nominated portrayal of Dr. Szell, a dentist and fugitive Nazi war criminal who tortures his patient in 1976’s “Marathon Man.” That’s him in the photo, top. Szell ranks as villain No. 34 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years … 100 Heroes and Villains” list.