Saint Apollonia was born about the year 200. She was one of a group of virgin martyrs who suffered in Alexandria during a local uprising just before the persecution of Decius. According to church tradition, her torture included having all of her teeth violently pulled out or shattered.
During festivities to commemorate the millennium of the founding of Rome, people formed a mob Alexandria, when a poet prophesied a disaster. A Christian man and woman, Metras and Quinta, were seized and killed by the mob. The houses of several other Christians were pillaged.
Apollonia, a deaconess was important in her community. Men seized her too and with repeated blows broke all her teeth. Outside the city gates, they build a pile of wood and threatened to burn her alive if she didn’t renounce her faith. At her request, she was given a little freedom. She sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death in 249.
Apollonia and a whole group of early martyrs didn’t wait for the death they were threatened with. Either to preserve their chastity or because they had to renounce their faith or die, they voluntarily embraced the death prepared for them. Some thought this was too much like suicide. Saint Augustine of Hippo touches on this question in the first book of The City of God. If during a persecution holy women plunged into the water with the intention of being swept away by the waves and drowned, to preserve their threatened chastity. Although they quit life, they receive high honor as martyrs in the Catholic Church. It may or may not be the case this was the command of God, not erroneously but through obedience, as we must believe in the case of Samson? When, however, God gives a command and makes it clearly known, who would account obedience there to a crime or condemn such pious devotion and ready service?
She was revered in the Alexandrian Church, as a martyr. She is popularly invoked against the toothache because of the torments she had to endure. She is popularly regarded as the patroness of dentistry and those suffering from toothache or other dental problems. In some areas of Italy, Saint Apollonia is seen in the role of the tooth fairy, collecting children’s fallen baby teeth while they sleep and leaving a gift in exchange. Her image is the side support of the arms of the British Dental Association.