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Wooden snuff box showing a tooth extraction, Europe, 1701-1900

A painful tooth extraction is shown on the lid of this snuff box. A piece of string has been secured around the patient’s tooth and is being pulled by the dentist who is using his foot to brace himself against the patient’s jaw. The patient probably only had, at best, alcohol or herbal concoctions to relive the pain. Tooth pulling was carried out by a range of people including barber-surgeons and travelling practitioners, who often had limited medical skills at best. The illustration would suggest that the process was viewed as somewhat humorous – although not, presumably, by the patient. Snuff was well-liked for its aroma, taste and nicotine boost. It was once believed to ward off colds, be good for ear, nose and throat problems and stop snoring. (Pictured here with two other snuff boxes showing tooth extractions A642702 and A642711).

Object number:

A642713

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    Glossary:

    Glossary: snuff box

    a small usually ornamental container for holding snuff Boxes, usually having a hinged lid and small enough to be carried in the pocket, used for holding snuff

    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.

    Glossary: dentistry

    The study, treatment and management of diseases affecting the mouth, jaws, gums, teeth and their supporting tissues.

    Glossary: nicotine

    A chemical compound that forms 0.6-3.0 per cent of the dry weight of tobacco. Nicotine acts as a stimulant in mammals, and is one of the primary reasons for smoking addiction.

    Glossary: snuff

    Tobacco that has been finely powdered. Snuff is usually sniffed through the nose, or applied to the gums with a finger.