history

11 Horrifying Tools Used Throughout The History Of Dentistry

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

Quick survey: raise your hand if you’re scared of going to the dentist. Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in admitting it! I know I tend to avoid making my regular check-up appointments when I get too anxious about how much pain they might inflict.

But as scary as modern tools and techniques might seem, they are so much more evolved than the stuff people relied on back in the early days of dental hygiene. In fact, the official profession — including training — didn’t come around until the eighteenth century. Before that, as the American Dental Association explains, folks from the Middle Ages counted on two groups of barbers: “…surgeons who were educated and trained to perform complex surgical operations, and lay barbers, or barber-surgeons, who performed more routine hygienic services including shaving, bleeding and tooth extraction.”

That’s some grim stuff! Scroll down to see the frightful tools that have been used for dentistry throughout history.

Did we miss any terrifying dental devices you remember from back in the day? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your friends!

1. Underbite Headgear

1. Underbite Headgear

The clunky gear worn by kids enduring braces these days can be awkward, but this old palate adjuster for underbites definitely gives me the same chills Hannibal Lector does.

2. Rubber Dam Clamp

2. Rubber Dam Clamp

In the 1890s, these were apparently adjustable to fit on several teeth at a time so that a dentist could perform whatever process was necessary.

3. Plugging Mallet

3. Plugging Mallet

I am pretty sure that if I ever saw a mallet — no matter how big or small it might be — in my dentist’s hand, I would start running toward the exit immediately.

4. Foot Operated Drill

4. Foot Operated Drill

You’d have to be very confident in your doc’s foot, hand, and eye coordination while operating on cavities with this in the early 1900s.

5. Bite Gauge

5. Bite Gauge

Imagine your dentist asking you to bite down on this large, jagged metal device in order to measure the strength of your bite… yikes.

6. Articulator

6. Articulator

Another measuring tool which, to their credit, dentists of the past acknowledge could not be used quite this effectively on live patients — using the earlobes as a guide on either side of the triangle instead — but it’s still quite a mouthful.

7. Fractured Jaw Headgear

7. Fractured Jaw Headgear

Used in 1891, this interdental splint was intended to keep the upper jaw and cheekbones aligned while healing from broken facial bones.

8. Phantom Head

8. Phantom Head

These fake heads are spooky enough on their own and still used in training today, but why did they have to give them a creepy name on top of it?

9. Ether Inhaler

9. Ether Inhaler

Knockout gas has come a long way since patients were instructed to inhale these noxious ether-infused sponges from dubious glass pipes.

10. Tooth Key

10. Tooth Key

Just reading the description on the card made each and every one of my teeth feel pangs of terror.

11. Invasive Implant

11. Invasive Implant

While implants are, of course, still done routinely today, they have certainly become less monstrous when viewed through an X-ray. I would hate to be the person healing from this particular surgery from the 1970s.

Do you know of any other freaky tools used by dentists back in the day? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE with your friends!