The First Dental Tools

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Modern dental tools evolved over centuries.

Early dental tools provide a glimpse into dentistry in its earliest years. The earliest tools in dentistry include drills and extraction devices to help dental patients relieve the pain and pressure of infected teeth and decay. While dentistry sought to relieve pain, the available tools may have brought about more misery to patients than actually helped.

  1. The Dental Pelican

    • The dental pelican was an extraction tool used to remove infected or decayed teeth from patients. Invented by Guy de Chauliac in the 14th century, the device was a type of forceps that often damaged the teeth in the process of removing them. The local blacksmith created the dental pelican for use by practitioners during the period.

    The Dental Key

    • As dental practitioners sought new and more effective ways to remove teeth from patients, the dental key came along to replace the pelican. The key replaced the pelican but did little to reduce the amount of pain and damage caused when extracting teeth. The dental key came on the scene in the 1700s and removed teeth by clamping down over the damaged or decayed tooth. The dental practitioner then twisted the device handle to loosen the tooth for removal. The dental key often caused patients to suffer with broken teeth and jaws after an extraction. Early extractions also damaged the soft tissue of the mouth for dental patients.

    Dental Chair

    • Josiah Flagg invented the first dental chair in 1790 by attaching a headrest and tray for instruments to an ordinary Windsor chair. A special chair for dental patients is an indication of how far dentistry advanced in the 1700s.

    Dentist’s Drill

    • The earliest drills used to treat dental patients were carpenter’s drills adapted for use on teeth. Pierre Fauchard invented the first dental drill in the late 1600s. By 1871 the dental drill advanced to a foot operated engine. The early drill was not replaced until 1957 with the air turbine drill, which advanced the practice of dentistry in the 20th century.

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