In 1974 Lucille Ball told TV host Dick Cavett that during World War II she picked up radio broadcasts through her dental fillings as she was driving home from the MGM studios through Coldwater Canyon. The phenomena subsided as she continued driving. When it happened again a week later she told MGM security because the signals seemed to be Morse code. She stated that the FBI located the source of the signals, an underground Japanese radio station.
Lucy Isn’t Alone – Others Have Reported the Phenomena
In fact, there are stories of other people who have heard radio signals through their dental work. Cecil Adams of Straight Dope reports two of them:
- In 1961, a 12 year-old Chicago boy had a missing front tooth replaced with a cap held in place via a brass wire. Soon after he began hearing music “in his head” while outside. He never heard an announcer or other cues to identify the radio station. The phenomena stopped a year or so later when another dentist fitted him with a cap that had no wire attachment.
- In 1947, a woman in Chicago heard radio signals for about 10 minutes while she rode a train from Cleveland to Rhode Island. She heard commercials and an announcer’s voice but not clearly enough to identify the station. She did have “silver tooth fillings” but could not recall if any of them had just been placed prior to her trip.
Fact or Fiction?
The conclusions are mixed. “Mythbusters,” of cable fame, was unable to reproduce the phenomena and called the myth “busted.” Snopes, a well-known site that researches to determine the validity of thousands of stories circulating on the Internet, calls Lucille Ball’s claim “undetermined.” But check out this article in the Globe and Mail about other documented cases of radio frequencies being picked up by braces.
Science Might Have the Answer
Robert Hunsucker, a professor at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, explains how this phenomenon can actually occur.
A radio receiver is made up of an antenna, a detector to convert the radio wave to an audio signal, and a transducer, which is anything that acts like a speaker. In very rare cases a person’s mouth can act as the receiver and their body acts as the antenna. A metallic filling can act as a semiconductor that detects the audio signal, and the speaker would be something in the mouth that vibrates enough to produce noise, like bridgework or possible a loose filling.
Are You “Hearing Things”?
While it is highly unlikely that you will be hearing radio broadcasts through your dental work, be sure to schedule an exam with us if you do! We will work together to be sure your restorations are “sound.”