The prevalence of dentists in recent novels by Grass, Bellow, Updike, Pynchon, and Vonnegut suggests a shift in cultural attitudes toward teeth. Teeth have conventionally represented potency, beauty, or pain. The first attribute is most common in myth, folklore, and psychoanalysis. The topos of beautiful teeth, familiar in literature from the Old Testament to Poe, was inverted parodistically by fin-de-siècle writers like Mann and Benn. The attribute of pain assumed particular significance for Dostoevsky, H. C. Andersen, and Mann—heirs of the romantic association of disease and art—as a clue to the psychic state of the individual. Following the revival of the organismic theory of society, decaying teeth were seen to provide a more general symbol: in the novels of Koestler and Greene dental health consistently reflects social health. Hence the dentist enters contemporary fiction as psychic healer and social analyst.