Dental Medicine-Biology Major Chloe Walls Researches Folklore of Teeth for National Museum of Dentistry

Senior Chloe Walls is an undergraduate biology major in Seton Hill’s Dental Medicine Collaborative Degree Program with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM). Once Chloe graduates from Seton Hill in Spring 2022, she will attend LECOM School of Dental Medicine in Bradenton, FL, where she has a seat reserved. 

During the summer of 2021, Chloe served as an editorial research intern at the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry. The Museum is part of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. Using her own research, she curated an online exhibit on the Folklore of Teeth. 

“Through my internship, I found a lot of information that connected my scientific background on teeth with the history of various cultures,” Chloe said. “Due to my education at Seton Hill, I was able to explain the science behind many ancient myths.”

“One legend that is explained by science is ‘tooth worms,’ Chloe said. "They were thought to cause toothaches, but were actually just exposed nerve endings caused by improper extractions. I also found a lot on how teeth were used as protective charms, which can possibly be explained by the fact that they contain the hardest substance in the body.” 

In her research she learned about the importance of teeth in certain non-Christian religions, the history of some modern day practices, and how it is psychologically important to believe in the Tooth Fairy. 

“Due to my education at Seton Hill, I was able to explain the science behind many ancient myths.”

“My favorite tidbit I learned is that the Tooth Fairy is the only ‘American Fairy,’'' Chloe said.  “That means that the legend was not present in other countries, unlike other fairies that Americans sometimes believe in. The Tooth Fairy is a fairly recent (WWII) entirely American-made legend made up of a combination of several other legends from around the world. With social media and the internet though, the Tooth Fairy is gaining worldwide popularity and beginning to outshine her international competitors!”

Chloe’s research will be added to the museum website. 

“While most of what I learned at the internship was humanities-based, I think it would still be helpful in my future career,” Chloe said. “The biggest relevance between my internship and my future career in dentistry was seeing how some of our current practices/traditions began and how they have grown since then.” 

Once Chloe graduates from LECOM, she plans to obtain a master's in orthodontics. She wants to specialize in treating patients with disabilities.

“I chose Seton Hill because of the LECOM Early Acceptance Program and the energy I felt during my tour,” Chloe said. “Everyone was kind and welcoming which made me feel like I could really see myself here.”