Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Operator for the Teeth

I went to the dentist today. A rear top molar broke last Sunday. I was expecting that the dentist would tidy up the hole with amalgam, but out it had to come. This took three sessions, with ten minute breaks for the dentist's grip to recover its strength. Of course, I had had an injection, but if pain had gone, there was plenty of sensation as root by root it surrendered. In between wrenchings, he explained the alternatives: a denture at £250, and insert at £1,500, or nothing, which would cost me nothing. I went for the nothing option, there being no cosmetic or very practical reason to do otherwise.

Back in the 17th century, however:

Besides this artificial way of repairing the loss of Teeth, there is another which may be called the natural, which is done by taking out the rotten Teeth or stumps, and putting in their places sound ones, drawn immediately after out of some poore body's head: which thing (though difficult) I know to be feasible enough ... However, I do not like that method of drawing teeth out of some folks heads, to put them into others, both for its being too inhumane, and attended with too many difficulties, and then neither could this be called the Restauration of Teeth, since the reparation of one, is the ruine of another; it is only robbing Peter to pay Paul ... And that I may contribute something towards the improvement of so useful and invention, I think one is, to proceed with it somewhat after this manner. First, I would choose an Animal whose Teeth should come nearest to those of the Patient; as a Dog, a Sheep, a Goat, or a Baboon &c...

From Charles Allen, Curious observations in that difficult part of chirurgery, relating to the teeth (running title, 'The Operator for the Teeth'), Dublin, 1687, pp. 20-1.

I suspect that even though Allen cautions he would only have 'the thing be undertaken and carried on by one that at least knows something of
Anatomy' he has neither tried this, nor had looked in the mouth of any of these animals.

This is not making me feel better. The image at the top is a pelican, appropriated off
though Allen, being Irish, calls it a 'polican' in his book. The slightly dissimilar arms with the semi-circles, the bolsters, and the slightly dissimilar lengths of the rotating double-ended claw gives you four different closing widths. I think that then you put the last straight part of the bolster (outside the semi-circle) on a sound tooth,
trapped the outside of the tooth to be pulled with the part of the bolster that turns at an angle at the extremity, then clinched the claw up tight against the inside of the tooth to be pulled, then levered out the tooth using the sound tooth as your fulcrum.

... Then Allen would have you do the same on a suitable looking tooth in the mouth of the baboon which you have strapped down ready for that purpose, and insert it into the hole you have just made in your patient's dentition.

The whole left side of my head is hurting.

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