While dental cavities were sometimes filled with gold or silver during the early nineteenth century, decaying teeth were often removed. This item is called a tooth key and was used in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to remove molars, the large back teeth. The small, curved, metal arms at the base were set around the affected tooth, and the doctor or dentist grasped the wooden handle at the top. They then twisted and pulled until the tooth loosened and came out.
Tooth Extractor, 1800-1850, wood, steel, L: 6 x W: 4 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Jansen Roy, F0612.1951.