As I sit in the dentist’s chair in Wimpole Street waiting to have a tooth extracted I admire a drawing of two skulls on the wall. “They’re a gift from Damien Hirst,” says the dentist. “Have you seen his diamond skull. I did the teeth.” He then tells me how.
He was asked to do the work by some patients who are diamond merchants. Initially it was all hush hush. “But we dentists can tell the age of a skull, so I knew there wasn’t any funny business. Eventually the link with Damien came out.”
The skull was perhaps 150 years old and brittle. The dentist was worried that he might damage the teeth or the skull as he extracted the teeth, so he put the skull in a cigar humidifier for three days. Then he soaked the jaw in water. Eventually he extracted the teeth, but they weren’t all there and some were already damaged.
Hirst’s skull is actually platinum, but most of the teeth are the real teeth from the skull. The dentist, who is also a prosthodontist, had to do lots of careful work to repair the damaged teeth so that the repairs don’t show and create new teeth that looked real. Judging from the picture of the skull on his wall he did well.
There is also, he told me, a “negative” of the skull, which has the real skull without diamonds but created teeth with diamonds. Hirst has this.
Below is a picture of Hirst’s skull and below that—BEWARE DISGUSTING—a picture of my extracted tooth (from both sides). The dentist had it out in minutes, although he’d warned me it could take up to an hour. “Always set low expectations,” he advised wisely.