Saint Apollonia was an elderly woman who was persecuted because she was a Christian. One day, she found herself in the midst of an angry crowd that sought out and brutalized every Christian they could find. Saint Apollonia was one of those. When they caught her, the first thing they did was smash out all of her teeth. She was then dragged through Alexandria to the outskirts of the city where they made a huge fire. She was given an opportunity to live if she publicly renounced her faith; however, she remained strong in the face of certain death by fire. Just when her persecutors saw that she would not cooperate, she paused as if to speak. They released her, as if to display in some way that she was about to speak of her own accord. Instead of cursing her God as they demanded, she flung herself into the fire.
For the way she was brutally beaten, with all of her teeth being knocked out, Saint Apollonia is known as the patron saint of dentists. Saint Apollonia is most often depicted in art as holding a dentist's tooth pulling instrument or as wearing a necklace of teeth (her own teeth) around her neck.