Four Harrowing Methods of Tooth Extraction in the Past

In the old days, a tooth extraction procedure meant pulling out the rotten tooth with only one’s fingers. What’s so bad about it was the unsanitary insertion of unwashed fingers into the patient’s mouth. Yet, that’s not even the worst method of removing teeth in human history. Check out the following list of the five nightmarish ways to have your tooth pulled.

1. Striking Down a Bad Tooth with a Mallet and Chisel Until It Loosens

Before humans began to make tools and weapons from iron and silver ore, the primitive peoples had to face a slow and painful procedure for tooth pulling. Small wooden stakes were placed against the gum line where the tooth’s root canal is located. Using a heavy mallet, the stakes were struck to forcibly push out the bad tooth. When it’s weakened considerably, it can be easily pulled out by the patient using his fingers.

2. The Elevator, The Pelican, and The Key

These three instruments were used by barbers to pull out teeth during the 14th century until the late 19th century. First, the elevator was used to loosen the tooth from its position. A gentle hammering of the tooth and then striking it with a blunt object, such as a small mallet, dislodged the tooth. Then, the loose tooth was gripped by a pelican with claws. These claws were pushed down into the gums so they could hold the tooth by its roots.

With the pelican providing leverage, the dental key was inserted and positioned over the tooth. Its handle looked like a corkscrew, which was turned around in a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion without the instrument losing its grip on the tooth. And then, the dentist turned the key’s handle around, left to right, and moved it back and forth until the tooth was thoroughly “shaken.” After that, the loosened tooth was easily extracted using forceps or the barber’s fingers.

3. File Them Down and Fill ‘Em Up With Gold

Because of the primitiveness of the tools and the lack of medical care after extraction, most tooth extraction methods almost always ended up with the patient’s death. That’s the reason why dentists would rather do everything they could to preserve the tooth than to pull it out. Many tooth extractions often led to the removal of just the half part of a tooth. Most of the time, the hammering of the tooth could have splintered the tooth into smaller pieces while leaving behind its root embedded inside the gum area.

Thus, the best solution for a tooth decay is to scrape away the decayed part and insert a cement or silver filling to prevent food and bacteria from entering the tooth. Another solution for avoiding tooth removal is to file down the affected teeth after cleaning it with bacterial debris. Then, a mold is made of the original tooth and appended onto the remaining area. In a way, this was the precursor of today’s popular veneers.

4. Do What the Greeks and Romans Do: Use Forceps and Pliers with Force

The Romans were known to use thin-root forceps and pliers during a tooth extraction procedure. These tools were most likely sculpted from large animal bones. During the third century AD, the Greeks also used forceps, but used the leverage from a double lever to increase the force of pulling out the tooth. Incidentally, the Greeks were the first people who correctly deduced that sweet foods caused dental decay to develop.

Fortunately, the late eighteen hundreds saw two American dentists, William Thomas G. Morton and Horace Wells, use ether anesthesia and nitrous oxide during their tooth extraction procedures. At that time, their treatments were marketed as “painless” dental treatments. That brought them a lot of patients who wanted to end the misery of a toothache, but didn’t want to go through a very painful experience in the dentist’s chair.