Dental Tools Throughout History By Alicia Green on October 22, 2018

We understand that the dentist isn’t always a pleasurable experience, especially if you need extensive work done. Thankfully with modern medicine and technology we have multiple options to keep you comfortable and pain free. However, it wasn’t always this way. Take a look at some of the dental devices that were used throughout history and just be glad that you didn’t need a tooth pulled back in the day!

Bow Drill - 7000 BC

Dental Bow Drill 700 BCThe bow drill was constructed like the bows that were used to make fire but instead of creating flame from two pieces of wood, this drill had a stringed wooden bow tied to a rotating spindle used to drill into teeth. This dental device was found in what is now presently known as India and Pakistan.

Dental Pelican 1600s

Dental Pelican The Pelican was used for tooth extraction. The tooth would be placed between between the claw and the head of the shaft then tightened down on to ensure a tight grip on the tooth, then pulled out.

Secateurs 1810

Secateurs 1810

This French device (secateurs meaning cutting or scissors) would be placed around the tooth and tightened down just above the gum line. The tooth would then be pulled out.

Tooth Key 1810

Tooth Key 1810

Another extraction tool for infection teeth. The claw of the tooth key would be fixed deep down between the tooth and the gums. The idea was that with one slow turn of the device the tooth would be pulled out. However this usually resulted in broken teeth, tissue damage, and even jaw fractures.

Civil War Era Dental Forceps

Civil War Era Forceps (1860’s)

Forceps were invented after the failure of the tooth key. The drill in the center of this tool would work on the root of the tooth while the forceps would pull to extract the tooth.

Clockwork Dental Drill

Clockwork Drill (1860s)

The Clockwork Drill was invented in 1864 by the British dentist George Fellows Harrington. This drill would be wound up in advance and would run continuously for about 2 minutes. However since it required both hands and would need to be repeatedly wound up it was replaced by the footdrill just a few years later.

Dental Foot Drill 1872

Foot Drill 1872

With the need to have continuous drilling the footdrill was invented in 1872. This dental drill was powered by the pressing down on the pedal repeatedly, freeing the dentist’s second hand.





Wilcox Jewett Obtunder




Wilcox Jewett Obtunder 1905

This sure doesn’t look like a modern day syringe, but this device was used for oral injection of anesthetic substances. Finally anesthetic!

Can you believe that these tools were not medieval torture devices but in fact dental tools?! However the poor patients who these had to be used on probably would vote on the side of torture devices. We sure have came a long way since then!

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