Three tooth keys, circa 1850

Three tooth keys, circa 1850

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Caption: Three ebony handled tooth keys. 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 claw 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). These examples are English and date from around 1850.

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