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Credits: Science Museum

Dental pelicans are so-called because they resemble a pelican’s beak. The instruments were used for tooth pulling – the tooth was removed sideways. The claw was placed over the top of the tooth and the fulcrum, the semi-circular piece of metal at the end, was placed against the gum. The pressure from the lever would remove the tooth. This was undoubtedly painful for the patient and possibly caused damage to the gums and surrounding teeth. Tooth pulling was the only cure for diseased teeth and toothache and was carried out by barber-surgeons and travelling practitioners. Dentistry was not a licensed and regulated profession until the late 1800s.

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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: dental pelican

Used for extracting teeth sideways. Invented by Guy de Chauliac in the 1300s. It was used for tooth extraction before the use of dental keys.