Sunday, 26 January 2014

At the sign of the golden tooth

This venerable sign is in a Georgian gem area of Southampton. It advertises a dental practice and, despite appearances, it is modern. Historically-aware dentist Clive Marks wanted a sign that was in keeping with the 1820s Grade II listed building that housed the practice. After three years of research he commissioned the sign, based on a similar one in France. Carved from solid elm, and weighing a hefty five stone, the gilded tooth hangs proudly above the select shops of Bedford Place.

But there’s more. And, being a communications professional as well as a sign fanatic, it’s a story that pleases me greatly. 

One night about 11 years ago, the tooth was stolen; three young men were seen staggering up the street with it. Instead of adding it to the local crime statistics, the dentist, suspecting it was a student prank, enlisted the student newspaper to track down the perpetrators. That done, they had some great fun, checking dental records for anyone with an unusually large tooth missing and issuing ransom notes from the militant wing of the tooth fairies. The police entered into the fun as Nasher of the Yard. Not only did this create some great publicity, the venture raised £200 for comic relief in the form of ransom money. The dentist was generous enough to let the student newspaper run it as an exclusive, and it gained international coverage. I can’t vouch for his dentistry skills, but Clive Marks’s ability to extract good PR from a misfortune has to be admired. You can read the full story here

Please note how restrained I’ve been. I could have talked about giving my eye teeth for this story, pontificated on the molar of the tale and mentioned gaps in the coverage. I could have drilled down into the detail and filled in for padding, and I could have speculated on incisor dealing. Just be grateful I didn’t.


  1. oo I hate dentists especially half an hour before three o'clock

  2. Hilarious story behind a very unusual sign

    1. Thanks Chrissy - still not sure how those students managed to get the five stone tooth down - it's hung at quite a height!