Heald House Museum

Open Houses

Free Admission & Guided Tours
Third Sunday of Each Month


698 Concord Street
Carlisle, MA 01741

Samuel Heald House (ca. 1740): Home to the Carlisle Historical Society and the Heald House Museum
Dental Key

The dental key was one of several instruments in use for “drawing teeth” during the 18th and 19th centuries, when tooth extraction was the preferred method for treating diseased teeth. Although much is unknown about the key, including its initial design and exactly where and when it originated, it is known that the first illustration of the dental key appeared in a 1742 paper by Scottish surgeon and anatomist Alexander Monro. After 1742, the design of the dental key evolved substantially, with most alterations aimed at reducing damage to patients’ jaws, gums, and surrounding teeth and increasing the ease and speed with which practitioners could employ the instrument. The dental key “was a favourite instrument with practitioners for well over one hundred years” but was ultimately replaced by forceps that had the advantage of “beaks fashioned to fit the necks of the different classes of teeth.”

Our dental key comes from the bag of Carlisle physician, Dr. Austen Marsh, and is on display at the Heald House Museum.

Historical information drawn from: Frank Colyer. (1951). A Note on the Dental Key. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 44(8): 652-655. Click on the button below to read Colyer’s article on the dental key.

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