Tooth extractor got to the root of pain

Improved version of the dental extractor on display at Beck Isle Museum.
Improved version of the dental extractor on display at Beck Isle Museum.

Within the Victorian Chemists Shop at Beck Isle Museum a variety of artefacts are displayed including patent medicines, surgical instruments and spectacles. There are also a small number of dentistry artefacts.

This week’s object is a tooth key used from about 1750 to extract teeth.

The design of the dental key evolved over the years. The original design featured a straight shaft, which caused it to exert pressure on the tooth next to the one 
being extracted.

This led to a newer design in 1765 by FJ Leber where the shaft was slightly bent. In 1796 the claw was fixed via a swivel enabling it to be set in various positions by a spring-catch.

Newer designs, such as those manufactured by medical instrument maker Charriere featured interchangeable claws. By the end of the 19th century, the introduction of forceps made popular by Sir John Tomes, rendered the tooth key mostly obsolete. However, a modern version of the dental key, the Dimppel extractor, briefly revitalised its use later in the 20th century.

The instrument shown is the improved version which has a double cranked shaft claimed to reduce the pressure on the jawbone and the adjacent teeth.

The hook was placed inside the jaw at the base of the tooth to be removed and the handle was twisted vigorously. The aim was to lift the tooth out or to loosen it sufficiently to enable it to be extracted with forceps.

Unfortunately, it frequently resulted in breaking the tooth or, in some cases, fracturing the jaw.

l Beck Isle museum in Pickering is open daily throughout the summer and Traditional Craft Days are taking place on 1, 15 and 29 August and will provide an opportunity to find out more about the Victorian Chemists Shop and the museum’s nineteenth century printing press, as well as seeing demonstrations of rural crafts around the museum.

For more information about what’s on at the museum please visit or call 01751 473653.