No one likes a trip to the dentist.
But if you lived in the 1700s, you would have liked it a lot less.
The Westport Historical Society‘s most recent Mystery Object was a tooth key.
Also known as a dental key, it was used to extract diseased teeth. (Stop reading now if you’re squeamish.)
Modeled after a door key, the tooth key was inserted horizontally into the mouth. Its claw tightened over a tooth. The dentist then rotated it, loosening the tooth.
The original design featured a straight shaft, which caused it to exert pressure on the tooth next to the one being extracted. A newer (1765) version featured a slightly bent shaft.
The photo above shows the earlier design. It was donated to the WHS by Mrs. William L. Coley.
The tooth key was part of the ongoing “Westport in 100 Objects” exhibit. Every 2 weeks there’s a new mystery object. If you stop in and identify it, you can win something from the gift shop.
There was no winner this time.
Which may be good. It means no one in Westport has had actual experience with a tooth key.