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Statue showing a tooth extraction, Europe, 1601-1700

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Removing a tooth in the 1600s was a painful and sometimes physically damaging process with, at best, only alcohol or herbal concoctions to numb the pain. This wood and ivory statue represents a tooth-pulling scene from the time. Tooth-pulling was viewed with a certain amount of disdain by the established medical profession and teeth were often extracted by local barber-surgeons or by travelling practitioners – who often had very dubious medical skills.

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Glossary: statue

A sculpture in the round representing human or animal figures or small figure groups; a statuette is a smaller sculpture.

Glossary: tooth pulling

The removal of a tooth from the mouth. Extractions are performed for a wide variety of reasons, including tooth decay that has destroyed enough tooth structure to prevent restoration. Extractions of impacted or problematic wisdom teeth are also routinely performed.

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