Six tooth keys, 19th century

Six tooth keys, 19th century

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Credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Six steel tooth keys with steel, ebony (black), or bone (white) handles. 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 end 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 tooth keys originate from France or England and date from between 1820 and 1850.

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