Featured Artifact

Tooth Key, 19th Century

tooth key

Inventory Number: 2004.387.01.01

Owned by Dr. S. McGarry of Niagara Falls, this key was donated to the Faculty of Medicine by a Dr. Glaister of Wellesley, Ontario.

Although the exact date of invention of the tooth key (also known as the dental key, clef de Garengeot, Fothergill-Key, Dimppel Extractor), the first known medical reference to the device lies in Alexander Monroe's Medical Essays & Observations (1742). Monroe describes the instrument as "for drawing teeth." The instrument is inserted into the mouth horizontally and the "claw" is tightened over the tooth. From Monroe's text we learn that using this device would often result in broken teeth, fractured jaws, soft tissue damage, or a painful combination of all three. The tooth key remained a common tool in dentistry until it was replaced with the modern dental forceps in the early 20th century.