Three-clawed tooth key, circa 1800

Three-clawed tooth key, circa 1800

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Credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Unusual steel toothkey with three claws alongside its fish skin case (two further claws in case). Tooth extraction is the earliest known dental procedure, it was used as a last-resort cure for toothache. From around 1750 the tooth key, whilst still brutal, overtook the less-effective pelican tooth extractor as the instrument of choice for tooth-drawing. The claws would be placed over the crown of the tooth and the device would be twisted to dislocate the tooth (often following prior loosening by an elevator tool). This instrument is English and dates from around 1800.

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