Why do Christian Scientists go to the dentist (but not doctors)?

One of the most common questions the Ex-Christian Scientist site gets is “Why do Christian Scientists go to dentists but not doctors?” Yeah, that is a good question. While we were raised in Christian Science, practiced Christian Science, and have since left Christian Science, the “logic” eludes us too, but we’re giving it a try. 


TL;DR

  1. Extreme Christian Scientists often choose not to go to the dentist
  2. Mary Baker Eddy’s reasoning allowed for loopholes to avoid lawsuits and CS taking the blame for failure, you may need to so some mental gymnastics, but as a Christian Scientists, you’re used to that, and you can make it work
  3. Dentistry was a well-established comparatively evidence-based practice in the 1800s.
  4. Mary’s second husband (she had three husbands), Daniel Patterson, was a dentist. They were married in 1853.

1) One is fairly self-explanatory, Extreme Christian Scientists often choose not to go to the dentist, pointing to S&H 167:12We cannot serve two masters nor perceive divine Science with the material senses.”

2) The right use of temporary means” loophole, and other excuses that have been used.  

Depending on how you read Science and Health, you can find loopholes that “allow” for medical treatment. You may need to do some mental gymnastics, but as a Christian Scientists, you’re used to that, and you can make it work. 

If Christian Scientists ever fail to receive aid from other Scientists, – their brethren upon whom they may call, – God will still guide them into the right use of temporary and eternal means S&H p. 444:7-10

Other reasons CS have used: 

  • For routine visits: It is “just” a cleaning, you wash your body, you brush your teeth, going to the dentist for a cleaning is fine.  — Never mind Mary Baker Eddy repeatedly rails on about hygiene being ineffective: “Drugs and hygiene cannot successfully usurp the place and power of the diving source of health and perfection.” S&H p.167 12-14
  • Having teeth removed, repaired and replaced is acceptable, as teeth are bones, and “Until the advancing age admits the efficacy an supremacy of Mind, it is better for Christian Scientists to leave surgery and the adjustment of broken bones and dislocations to the fingers of a surgeon, while the mental healer confines himself chiefly to mental reconstruction an to the prevention of inflammation. S&H p. 401 27-32 This excuse is often also used to deny numbing during procedures, or follow-up pain relief and antibiotics, as “you can pray about that part.” Pro tip: if you can’t “pray enough” to fix the tooth, don’t try and pray about the pain
  • Using braces on teeth is fine as they are “aids” to “assist” us until we reach a higher level of understanding & are better able to heal ourselves. S&H 56 3-6 “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness,” Jesus’ concessions (in certain cases) to material methods were for the advancement of spiritual good.” (Yes, we know this is from the chapter on Marriage, but it applies to so many things). 
  • Ms. Eddy is known to have used dentists in her time, if it was OK for her, it is OK for current-day Christian Scientists. 
  • As of 2010, The Mother Church has openly encouraged the notion that Christian Science has made a “Truce” with doctors (NYTimes, March 23, 2010) and medical care (including dentistry) is acceptable. 

3) Dentistry was a well-established comparatively evidence-based practice in the 1800s.

Per the American Dental Education Association website: 

“By the 1700s, dentistry had become a more defined profession.  In 1723, Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon credited as the Father of Modern Dentistry, published his influential book, The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth, which for the first time defined a comprehensive system for caring for and treating teeth.  Additionally, Fauchard first introduced the idea of dental fillings and the use of dental prosthesis, and he identified that acids from sugar led to tooth decay.” (https://www.adea.org/GoDental/Health_Professions_Advisors/History_of_Dentistry.aspx

For more about Pierre Fauchard, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Fauchard, https://www.fauchard.org/publications/47-who-is-pierre-fauchard

By Mary Baker Eddy’s day, dental practices had been around for well over 100 years, and were far more evidence-based than the questionable notions of humors being used by doctors of the day (see additional resources). 

4) MBE’s second husband, Daniel Patterson, was a dentist, so dentists must be OK?

They were married in 1853. It does not sound like a particularly happy marriage, as they spent much of their time separated. It ended with a divorce in 1873.

Final Thoughts

It is worth noting that while MBE is quite set against mesmerism, hypnotism, homeopathy, drugs, hygiene, minor curatives, material medicine, chemists, botanists, druggists, doctors, nurses, vegetarianism, hydrotherapy, narcotics, cataplasms, whiskey, apothecaries, man-midwifes, and material hygiene to name a few. Interestingly, dentists don’t get an obvious mention, leaving them open as a possible acceptable option for Christian Scientists to partake in.


Additional Resources 

Christian Science in Historical Context – Further Reading 

History of Dentistry – Further Reading 

19th Century Medicine – further reading 

Christian Science Links – Science & Health in full text as a searchable PDF https://christiansciencemedia.org/files/2010/03/Science-and-Health-with-Key-to-the-Scriptures.pdf

3 Replies to “Why do Christian Scientists go to the dentist (but not doctors)?”

  1. My mom used to have extensive dentistry done. All without novocaine! When I started needing fillings, she told the dentist I didn’t need novocaine, either. I’m wondering if it’s because of CS (of my parents, she was the lesser committed to CS) or because she had higher pain tolerance than the average person.

    1. I got wisdom teeth removed with just novocaine. Whew – that HURT – a LOT. I didn’t take the post-operation pain killer either. I just suffered for several days until the pain finally sort of dulled. I am so sorry you weren’t even allowed novocaine.

  2. I am pretty sure I learned that in Mary Baker Eddy’s day, people died of dental issues. And before dental care became a thing. I bet her husband, Daniel Patterson, DDS, bemoaned to hear about the poor dental care people had when they came to see him. And I bet he talked about people who died who could have been saved if they had only been to the dentist.

    This is why I feel like Christian Scientists were taught it’s okay to go to the dentist.

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