Ivory-Mounted Dental Pelican

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An 18th-century dental pelican illustrated in Thomas Knaur’s 1796 publication Selectus Instrumentorum Chirurgicorum in usum discentium et practicorum Tabulis exaratus.

Thomas Knaur was a doctor of surgery and obstetrics and served as a professor at what is now the University of Lviv in Ukraine.

The dental instrument is so-named as the claw resembles the beak of a pelican. Pelicans were some of the earliest tools used for the extraction of teeth, which was first mentioned in literature in the early half of the 14th century.

In order to extract the tooth, the claw is placed over the crown and the bolster against the outside of the gum. The claw is fitted by turning the ivory knob. With the patient in a low seated position and head between the extractor’s thighs, the pelican is pressed downwards and out to lever the tooth out. Common complications included severe laceration, hemorrhage, and jaw fracture.

  • From the Lusignan collection
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