The Smile Stealers (Thames & Hudson 2017)

Marking the third and final volume of the best-selling and award-winning series that began with The Sick Rose and Crucial InterventionsThe Smile Stealers traces the story of dentistry from the excruciating endeavours of early practitioners to the swift (but not always painless) procedures and cosmetic dentistry of today.

Gruesome yet captivating historical images of techniques and tools are presented alongside caricatures, paintings and the rarest of books and artifacts from the Wellcome Library’s unique collection. Eloquent and engaging essays trace the emergence of the trade and discipline of the dentist, from craftsman and charlatan to skilled professional, illustrating the changing social and cultural attitudes towards the purpose and practice of dentistry, from the extraction of rotting molars to the pursuit of the perfect smile.

You can read more about The Smile Stealers on the Thames & Hudson website, and order a copy on AmazonThe Smile Stealers is published in the US by Thames & Hudson USA, in Italy by Logos Edizioni, and in China by Imaginist Press. Kate Wands at Thames & Hudson handles press & publicity enquiries for the Sick Rose series.

Praise for The Smile Stealers

‘Excellent … very handsome indeed, with a heft and solidity, which, combined with an elegant grid and extremely high reproduction quality, give the reader the impression he’s actually wandering through a beautifully curated exhibition’ – Will Self, London Review of Books

‘Richard Barnett’s thoroughly compelling history of dentistry … Barnett knows there is more going on with a visit to the dentist than the mere scraping away of plaque’ – Times Literary Supplement

‘Gory, beautiful, probing … It reads, in part, like the production notes for the most upsetting horror movie ever made: you don’t even have to look at the trays of spikes, just note the straps on the wooden dentist’s chair’ – The Times

‘Fascinating – and frequently shocking’ – The Guardian

‘Magnificent … All human life is here – the pain, the suffering and the happiness summed up in the ecstasy of a toothsome smile’ – Tatler

The Smile Stealers is the latest in a trilogy following The Sick Rose and Crucial Interventions, all of which are packed with fascinating facts and anecdotes, and profusely illustrated with images that’ll make you squirm. They’ve been consistently excellent as well as intellectual and aesthetic delights’ – Fortean Times

‘A beautiful book, a witty book, a well-made book’ – Monocle Radio

Coverage and events

The Guardian published a gallery of images from the book. Matthew Sweet interviewed me about The Smile Stealers on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking, Terry Gross interviewed me for NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’, and I spoke about it on Monocle Radio. In 2018 I was curatorial consultant to ‘Teeth’, a Wellcome Collection exhibition inspired by The Smile Stealers.