The Official Symbol of Dentistry—What’s up With the Snake?
Posted Mar 2019
By Delta Dental of Arkansas
Tagged berries, leaves, odont, Delta, Omicron, god of medicine and healing, Asclepius, purple, lilac, snake, dentistry symbol
The Official Symbol of Dentistry—What’s up With the Snake?By Caroline Jacobson
Revised February 2021
You might have seen the official symbol of dentistry on your dentist’s business card or at your local dental clinic, but do you know what it actually represents? Especially the snake?
Let’s take a closer look
The emblem of dentistry is taken from Asclepius, a Greek god of medicine and healing. His symbol is a physician’s staff with a snake wrapped around it. The snake’s shedding of skin represented healing and rejuvenation. In honor of Asclepius, ancient Greeks would use non-venomous snakes in healing rituals and let them crawl freely on the floor among the sick and injured.
The lilac color of the emblem dates back to the National Association of Dental Faculties in 1897. To this day, dental graduates use purple in their gowns and caps, and the color is often found in dental publications.
You’ll notice two Greek letters, Delta and Omicron. Delta represents dentistry, and Omicron is a symbol for odont, or tooth.
Finally, lean in close and you’ll see 32 leaves and 20 berries. They represent the 32 permanent teeth and 20 baby teeth.
The American Dental Association adopted the emblem as the official symbol of dentistry in 1965.
A lot has changed in dentistry since the days of Asclepius. It’s unlikely you’ll find a snake in a modern dentist office.
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How would Asclepius like the idea of dental insurance?