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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Holy molar! Madonna sighted on a bicuspid

The mysterious facelike image discovered by dentist on a tooth.
The mysterious facelike image discovered by dentist on a tooth.

Dr. Michael Trantow has seen plenty of the expected in his 30 years of peering into the mouths of patients.

Cavities. Diseased gums. Abscessed teeth …

Seeing the Virgin Mary staring back at him, however, was definitely a first.

“I was so startled,” the Spokane Valley dentist said of what he witnessed earlier this month after removing a patient’s crown.

“I told everyone in the office to come in and look at this.”

The consensus, he said, fell pretty much into the category of shock and awe.

The exposed surface of a tooth belonging to longtime patient Marilyn Blossom appeared to bear the face of a woman who could be, well, you know who.

“I don’t believe in Bigfoot or weird things,” Trantow added. “But this took me back a lot.”

Odd coincidence?

Supernatural occurrence?

This is the sort of mystery I love sinking my teeth into.

The first step was to get an honest medical opinion.

Doug: “Is this what you’d call a holy molar?”

Dr. Trantow: “It’s a bicuspid.”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Trantow, 57, strikes me as a sincere guy. He invited me to his Valley office and I accepted. After some pleasantries, the dentist led me into the very room where the miraculous may have happened. Or not.

Fortunately, the patient didn’t need to join us.

Trantow wisely documented that fateful day by snapping a few digital color photos.

The image, the dentist explained, was made by what was under the crown: glue remnants, an old filling, tooth enamel …

All that combined into an unlikely human pattern.

To me, the apparition resembles pop star Katy Perry more than the Lord’s ma, Mary.

Then again, I’m no faithful Catholic like Trantow, who regularly plays guitar at his church worship service.

I’m more the chronic disbelieving wiseacre type.

But far be it from me to interfere with anyone’s immaculate reception.

And in all fairness, the dentist isn’t 100 percent certain that what he encountered is worth calling the Vatican about.

Still, the question remains: Does he believe – or not?

“I think there might be something there because I’ve never seen it before,” he said. “You always trust your gut reaction in the first two seconds and it kinda looks like Mary.”

There you go.

Proclaimed images of Mary do have a way of popping up in the craziest of places. Searching the Internet for “Mary sightings” will quickly validate this truth.

I found photographs of Mary’s supposed visage on a tree, a banana, a potato and – my personal favorite – a Marylike salsa stain on a restaurant wall.

“I’m a scientist first, but I’m also a human and there are some things that cannot be explained,” said Trantow.

“And this is one of them.”

The tooth’s owner isn’t so sure.

“He (Dr. Trantow) was quite excited about it,” said Blossom, who turned 79 on Tuesday. “It’s something different, anyway,”

Blossom is a native to the area. She has three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Even better, Blossom didn’t mind my columnist curiosity about what’s going on in her mouth. And my suggestion that she charge believers to make pilgrimages to her tooth drew laughs.

What a sweetheart.

But is she jumping on the Mother Mary bandwagon?

Blossom chuckled and summed it all up to perfection.

“Everybody sees what they want to see.”

Maybe that old saying is true. Wisdom really does come with age.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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