Three dental instruments in a leather pouch, England, 1800-1850

1800-1850 in Swinford
Set of three blacksmith's dental instruments, in leather pouch

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Set of three blacksmith's dental instruments, in leather pouch
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Set of three blacksmith's dental instruments, two dental keys and forceps, in leather pouch, reputedly from Swinford, Leicestershire, 1800-1850

The pouch contains two iron dental keys and a pair of iron dental forceps. These instruments would have been used in tooth pulling. Dental keys or tooth keys were introduced in 1730 and became the instrument of choice for tooth pulling from the 1770s onwards. The claw was placed over the top of the tooth and the bolster, the long metal rod to which the claw is attached, was placed against the root of the tooth. The instrument was then turned in much the same way that one would turn a key to open a lock. Undoubtedly this was painful for the patient and could cause much damage to the remaining teeth. It is believed that these instruments were made and owned by a blacksmith in Leicestershire, England.

Tooth pulling was carried out by a number of people, including barber-surgeons, travelling practitioners and blacksmiths. Dentistry did not become a regulated and licensed profession until the late 1800s.


Sir Henry Wellcome's Museum Collection
Object Number:
pouch, leather and instruments, iron
overall: 180 mm x 200 mm, .18kg
overall (pouch with instruments): 25 mm x 190 mm x 205 mm, 0.182 kg
dental instrument set
Ellis, B.