How John Lennon's tooth is fighting cancer at Cottingham dentist's
DREAMING of a better world in classic song Imagine, John Lennon did not mention oral hygiene.
But staff at Castle Park Dental Care in Cottingham think it is a cause he would have supported.
And they have been fighting mouth cancer using a necklace made with one of the music legend's teeth.
"The patients think it's great," said practice owner Chris Branfield.
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"You turn on the TV and it's all doom and gloom and people come to the dentist and have apprehensions about that.
"This is about communicating – showing that dentists are people, too, and if we can help along the way, then all the better."
The tooth has an interesting history.
Lennon came back from the dentist one day and told his housekeeper to get rid of it.
Instead, she gave it to her daughter as a souvenir.
From the housekeeper's family, it passed to Alan McGee, former boss of Oasis's label Creation Records.
Canadian dentist Michael Zuk snapped up the molar when McGee put it up for auction at Southport.
He paid £19,500 for it with a phone bid last autumn.
Mr Zuk, who collects celebrities' teeth and has even written a book about them, decided to have this one made into a DNA necklace.
"It's a fragment of a tooth," Mr Branfield said.
"You can get DNA from teeth.
"In fact, there are some companies in the UK that will cryogenically freeze teeth so in the future when they can cure diseases they have some of your DNA."
After buying the tooth, Mr Zuk contacted Beverley Hills-based Ari Soffer, who has designed jewellery for rock stars such as Motley Crue's Tommy Lee and Guns N' Roses stars Axl Rose and Slash.
Together, they came up with a pendant featuring the symbol for peace.
Mr Branfield is a member of national group Marketing Pirates of Dentistry, private practitioners who seek new ways of turning the public on to tooth care.
They heard about the molar necklace and wanted to share it with the world.
"The group is always looking for things online and they were looking for something to do with the Beatles for their 50th anniversary," Mr Branfield said. "It's a mad group but it's about making connections with people."
The centre is the first in the UK to host Lennon's tooth.
Staff dressed up as hippies for a day to celebrate.
"People don't expect it when they go to the dentist," Mr Branfield said. "We had fun with it. The customers loved it and there are loads of videos.
"There was a post on YouTube that said John Lennon would have been proud of this – it's gone to good use."
But behind the fun, there was a serious message.
"Mouth cancer is on the increase in the UK," Mr Branfield said.
"This area is not the worst but it is quite bad."
If it is caught early, the disease can be cured by simply cutting out a small cancerous area.
The longer it goes undiagnosed, the worse the situation becomes.
Eventually, the only option can be removing major parts of the face.
Castle Park Dental Care has a new machine that uses fluorescent light to check for signs of cancer.
"When the cancer presents late, the survival rates are low," Mr Branfield said.
"There are 75 new cases each year. Of these, 40 per cent will have radical surgery or reconstructive surgery.
"If they catch it early it's easy. That's the serious message."
The tooth necklace was hosted jointly with Lloyds Pharmacy in Cottingham.
Mr Branfield opened his practice up to the public.
Many people came in for blood pressure tests by Lloyds staff.