FEBRUARY 9. Apollonia, PATRON OF TOOTH WOES
Patron saint of dental diseases, dentists, and tooth problems
Died in 249
Apollonia was the miraculous child of aged, barren parents. When their pagan gods failed to intervene, her mother made a desperate plea to the Virgin. Upon hearing how the Virgin interceded and willed her birth, Apollonia became a devout Christian. Under an angel's tutelage, Apollonia made her way to Leonine, a fellow future saint, who baptized her.
At a time when many Christians were fleeing Alexandria, leaving their possessions behind, Apollonia, now an admirable old virgin or deaconess, was seized by an angry "mob of the heathen population" that sought out and brutalized every believer they could find.
MARTYRDOM: TAKE ONE
The mob beat Apollonia, battering her jaw and breaking her teeth (or knocking them out) with repeated blows to her face or with a bludgeon. By one account, Apollonia's cheeks were torn to shreds. They then dragged her through the city to the outskirts, where they built a great pyre and threatened to cast Apollonia into it if she did not invoke heathen gods or blaspheme against Christ. In response, the Holy Spirit inspired Apollonia with a special strength and she sprang into the inferno freely. Many members of the mob were converted at the sight of this bravery.
MARTYRDOM: VERSION TWO
The mob ordered Apollonia to worship a stone god, but she made a sign of the cross instead, which caused the idol to break into a thousand (tooth-like?) pieces. In response, the aggressors extracted Apollonia's teeth one by one.
NOT SUICIDE, BUT A HEROIC ACT
Saint Augustine opined that, with their chastity at stake, persecuted virgins may not have been acting on "human caprice," but instead in response to a divine command. According to Augustine, this is why it is okay to laud them even though quitting one's life is not only a sin but unsaintly.
PATRON OF DENTAL DISEASES
Due to the tooth-related torments she endured, which one dentist describes as "a very significant dental experience," Apollonia is the patron of dental woes. People suffering from toothaches were invoking her for centuries before the dental profession existed. Ancient art depicts her with golden teeth at the end of her necklace or with with tongs or pincers holding a tooth.