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Dr. Gary Gold, Laurel dentist who co-invented battery-powered tooth polisher, dies at 80

Dr. Gary K. Gold, a retired dentist who co-invented a battery-powered tooth polisher and had a private practice in Laurel for nearly 40 years, died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Neurosciences Critical Care Unit on Aug. 22, his wife said. He was 80.

The Baltimore native was a flight instructor, an accomplished archer and a comedian who cracked up his patients and neighbors in Columbia, where he lived with his wife, the former Susan Golaner, for more than 50 years.

Dr. Gold’s meticulousness and charisma made him a consummate dentist, but his love of learning — and then sharing — various skills was his defining attribute, Mrs. Gold said.

“He learned everything in great depth,” she said. “Then he wanted to teach it to people.”

Gary Kenneth Gold was born in Baltimore on Feb. 5, 1938, to Samuel Gold, a textbook publisher, and Clara Pumpian, a homemaker. He and his two brothers, Eric and Daniel, each seven years apart, were raised next door to their maternal grandparents on Ruscombe Lane in Northwest Baltimore’s Cylburn neighborhood.

The eldest, Dr. Gold used to accompany his father to work at his company, Dangary Publishing Co. on Howard Street, where he did everything from clean the bathrooms to help Linotype operators with typesetting.

He attended Baltimore City College high school and graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1960 and the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery (now the University of Maryland School of Dentistry) in 1964.

Dr. Gold met his wife, a future Baltimore speech pathologist who was two years his junior, while the pair were undergraduate students at College Park. They married in 1962, moved to Columbia, and had two children, Jonathan L. Gold of North Potomac and Lissa Beth Holtzner of Stevensville.

The dentist served in the U.S. Navy from 1964 t0 1966 at the Great Lakes (Ill.) Naval Training Center and Cherry Point (N.C.) Marine Corps Air Station. During his time in the service, Dr. Gold learned to pilot airplanes, eventually becoming a flight instructor.

While at Great Lakes, Dr. Gold pulled off one of his most memorable capers.

Having been ranked second in Maryland in archery, he challenged the head of the training center’s archery range to a competition — and arrived at the beachfront range on a naval landing craft dressed as Robin Hood, with a group of fellow Navy dentists dressed as his Merry Men.

They made for quite a sight, said Dr. Alan H. Hart of Boca Raton, a longtime friend from college, dentistry school and the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. (Dr. Hart was dressed as the Sheriff of Nottingham.)

“Trumpets blared, and here comes the barge, in from the lake with the band of Merry Men,” Dr. Hart said. “If he had to do a second occupation, I’m sure it would’ve been comedian. He got a laugh out of other people getting a laugh. That’s the way he was.”

The two dentists maintained their friendship and collaborated on the invention of a battery-powered tooth-cleaning device in the 1970s, after Dr. Hart opened a practice in Glen Burnie, he said.

Dr. Hart had the idea for a tooth polisher that patients could use to clean coffee stains from their teeth between dental appointments. Dr. Gold took it to a workshop in his garage — where he often made and fixed equipment for his office — and fashioned a prototype, Dr. Hart said.

“He had a mechanical knack,” he said. “I was kind of the imaginative idea [person]; he was the mechanical doer.”

They patented the device, which used a small rubber cup to scrub stains from teeth, in 1977. It was released to the public as the Concept Tooth Polisher in 1980, Dr. Hart said.

“The first marketing advertisement for the product was on the ‘Miss America’ show,” he said. “We told everybody we knew to keep an eye out for it. It came out in the drugstores and different catalogs.”

Eric Gold of Baltimore looked up to his oldest brother, who was 14 years his senior, as something of a “second father,” he said. Dr. Gold taught him to stand up to bullies at a young age; picked out and helped buy his first car, an MGB sportscar; and spent hours on the phone helping him set up his cosmetology business.

The younger Mr. Gold also fondly recalled Friday night dinners at their parents’ house, ending with guitar playing in the basement. Dr. Gold was a member of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society and the Kentucky Thumbpickers Society.

“He was willing to teach you if you were willing to listen,” Eric Gold said. “I was smart enough to sit there and listen.”

Services were held Aug. 26 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville, and he was buried at the Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery in Reisterstown.

Dr. Gold is survived by his wife, his brother, his children and four grandchildren. Another brother, Daniel Gold, of Aspen, Colo., preceded him in death.

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