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Iron mouth dilator, England, 1501-1600

Keeping the patient’s mouth open during treatments and surgery required an instrument like this mouth dilator. It was common for surgeons to perform tooth pulling as dentistry did not develop as a specialised discipline until the 1800s. This object was acquired from the Tower of London in 1841 after a fire destroyed most of the Grand Armoury.

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    Glossary: mouth dilator

    Instrument used to keep the mouth open during surgery.

    Glossary: tooth pulling

    The removal of a tooth from the mouth. Extractions are performed for a wide variety of reasons, including tooth decay that has destroyed enough tooth structure to prevent restoration. Extractions of impacted or problematic wisdom teeth are also routinely performed.

    Glossary: dentistry

    The study, treatment and management of diseases affecting the mouth, jaws, gums, teeth and their supporting tissues.