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Tumbling teeth spur art competition, community outreach

September 12, 2016

By David Burger

Photo of Dr. William Demray’s dental practice building
Overflow: Dr. William Demray’s Northville, Michigan, practice sports 3,333 oversized molars on the side of his dental practice.

Northville, Mich. — Ask Dr. William Demray why there are 3,333 molars overflowing from the second-story windows of his dental practice, and he has a simple explanation.

You see, the Tooth Fairy needed a place to store all of the baby teeth she had collected over the years. Dr. Demray offered to keep the molars in the second story of his practice. The weight of all those teeth, though, caused what Dr. Demray called a “Tooth Quake,” leading to the molars cascading out of the windows.

The real reason is that the 6-by-9-inch molars, welded into place on the side of his building this summer, are a public notice for an art competition that the Michigan dentist is sponsoring. The competition will raise money for the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry’s mobile dental clinic and celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month in February, when the art competition will be judged.

Photo of two young patients paint their own personal molars during a party at Dr. William Demray’s.
Ahoy matey: Two young patients paint their own personal molars during a party at Dr. William Demray’s dental practice in Northville, Michigan. The molars will be entered into a competition Dr. Demray is sponsoring.
The art competition will consist of canvases on — you guessed it — those 6-by-9-inch molars. Preservation Dental, the office of Dr. Demray, has 1,000 molars still available, and for a donation of $20, budding artists will receive a tooth in the mail that they can paint, draw, carve, sculpt or do anything else that tickles the right-brain’s fancy. Send it back, and the pieces of art — which Dr. Demray calls “acci-dental masterpieces” — will be entered into a juried art competition in February.

The tooth art will be on display at the Northville Square Mall in February, and there are two age categories. Artists 12 and under can win the grand prize of $371, and artists 13 and older can win $1,111. There will also be a people’s choice competition, sponsored by the local practice TDR Orthodontics.

Dr. Demray is not limiting the entrants to Michigan residents only. He encourages people from all over the world to enter. Teeth have been sent to Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, Georgia, Florida, Alberta, Newfoundland and beyond.

Photo of Dr. William Demray drilling a molar for his mountain of molars
Different sort: Dr. William Demray, a dentist in Northville, Michigan, “drills” a molar that would be affixed to his dental practice. Molars — 3,333 of them — would be welded to his office to create an eye-popping mountain of molars. 
Dr. Demray is doing all of this is to get people excited about going to the dentist’s office. “We want to show how cool dentists are,” he said. “We are fun people, too.”

Dr. Arvind Gulati, a local oral surgeon, supports the project and has even purchased some molars to hand out to his young patients, encouraging them to enter the art competition. "This masterpiece of teeth overflowing from the Tooth Fairy's house is brilliant," he said. "Originally when I saw the cascade of teeth flowing out of the window of his office I laughed. My thoughts were, 'What is this all about?' Within the hour not only did I have a clear understanding of his goals but I was in agreement with the idea. What better way to educate the population the importance of dental care and give back to the community?"

Dr. Christian Groth, an orthodontist and partner in TDR Orthodontics, is supporting the project because he has worked alongside Dr. Demray for years and knows what kind of man and dentist he is. “I admire what he is doing,” said Dr. Groth. “It was pretty obvious that this was going to be unique. And he’s not doing this for selfish reasons. It’s not about him.”

Dr. Demray knew the art installation would attract notice, but wasn’t prepared for the tourists who have arrived at the practice. “It’s astonishing,” Dr. Demray said. “It works because of the shock value. More than 100 people a day come to look at it and take pictures.”

Kids especially are attracted to the installation. “Children want to touch the teeth,” Dr. Demray said. “I tell them, ‘Go ahead, they don’t bite.’”

The installation naturally engenders questions from people, so Dr. Demray and his staff use the opportunity to also tell people about hidden sugars and the importance of brushing two times daily.

Dr. Demray sits on the alumni board of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry and wanted to give back to his alma mater. Proceeds from the donations in part benefit the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry’s Community Outreach Program — specifically the Titans for Teeth Mobile Clinic. The clinic is a 38-foot-long, four-chair coach that travels to provide comprehensive care for underserved children in local schools.
Photo of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry mobile dental coach outside Dr. William Demray’s practice
Partners: The University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry mobile dental coach flanks Dr. William Demray’s practice with 3,333 molars decorating the practice. Proceeds from an art competition sponsored by Dr. Demray will go toward the mobile clinic.

Dr. Demray and Dr. Groth hope that other dentists will be inspired to do similar efforts. “If there is a dentist or a dental practice in Denver, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, wherever, who would like some blow-molded teeth for an art contest in their hometown to benefit a local community outreach, we’re here to help facilitate the project,” Dr. Demray said.

The installation will eventually be taken down, but Dr. Demray has high hopes for where the tumbling molars will reside in the future. He envisions the teeth one day landing permanently in the lobby of the ADA headquarters in Chicago.

To order your own tooth and enter the competition, visit toothfairyoverstock.com.