‘The Woman That Pulled Teeth’ and the Tooth Key

As we prepare to celebrate the fifth annual Lucy Hobbs Project Celebration and Reunion, we reflect on Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor, the first woman in America to graduate with a dental degree and an instrument she most certainly had at her disposal – the tooth key.

At one point in her autobiography, written in the third person, Lucy discusses her rise to prominence, after so many trials and tribulations: “Her reputation widened, until all Iowa knew of the woman that pulled teeth.” The emphasis is her own.


Tooth key on display in dental museum at Benco Dental home office, Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Just what did she use to pull those teeth? Most likely, it was the humble tooth key, such as the one on display in the dental museum at Benco Dental home office in Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Modeled after a door key, the dental key was used by first inserting the instrument horizontally into the mouth, then its “claw” would be tightened over a tooth. The long metal rod, or bolster, was placed against the root. The instrument was rotated to loosen the tooth and pop it out. This did not always go so smoothly, but often resulted in the tooth breaking, causing jaw fractures and soft tissue damage.

The first mention of the tooth key was found in Alexander Monro’s Medical Essays and Observations in 1742. The design of the dental key evolved over the years. The original design featured a straight shaft, which caused it to exert pressure on the tooth next to the one being extracted. This led to a newer design in 1765 by Ferdinand Julius Leber, in which the shaft was slightly bent. In 1796, the claw was fixed via a swivel enabling it to be set in various positions by a spring-catch. Newer designs, such as those manufactured by medical instrument maker Charriere featured interchangeable claws. The handle unscrewed and there was a screwdriver inside it with which to change the claw. By the end of the 19th century, the introduction of forceps made popular notably by Sir John Tomes, rendered the tooth key mostly obsolete. However, a modern version of the dental key, the Dimppel Extractor, briefly revitalized its use later in the 20th century.

Thankfully, dental health has come a long way from the days when Dr. Taylor earned the nickname “The woman that pulled teeth” and the tooth key is now a museum oddity, but women dentists are no longer seen as unconventional.


An illustration of dental keys for tooth extraction from Savigny’s catalog of surgery implements, circa 1798.


Guest blogger Jenn Ochman, Database Publishing Production Specialist in the Branding and Communication Department at Benco Dental, dedicates her time outside work to historical reenactment. She shares knowledge of dental history with TheDailyFloss.com readers on a monthly basis.

Can holistic dentistry help kids avoid extensive treatment?

Healthy habits, fewer sugary snacks and initial dental visits by a child’s  first birthday – all are preventive methods proven successful in helping reduce extensive dental work in preschoolers.

A report by Natural Awakenings magazine suggests other options to “reduce the too-common incidence of six to 10 childhood cavities” include:

  • breastfeeding only until baby teeth erupt;
  • avoiding transmission of an anaerobic oral bacteria carried in saliva that’s the leading cause of tooth decay;
  • early interceptive treatment to avoid crowding of teeth;
  • and consulting a nutritionist.

screenshot-2016-11-14-18-10-17In an interview with Dr. Susan Maples, 2016 Lucy Hobbs Project honoree and owner of Total Health Dentistry, in Holt, Michigan, she notes that Streptococcus mutans is the leading reason children are hospitalized today.

Dr. Maples explained to reporter Linda Sechrist: “Cavities are formed when the rate of decay of the teeth caused by the lactic acid produced by the bacteria exceeds the rate of repair initiated by the phosphate and calcium ions in saliva.”

“The unwanted bacteria is transmitted through saliva, which is why adults should avoid licking spoons or tasting foods before offering them to children between the ages of 1 and 3. ‘This type of bacteria thrives on sugar, so children shouldn’t have lots of sugary drinks and sweet treats,’ says Maples. Mouth kissing presents a similar risk.”

Read the full story and learn how holistic dentistry can help keep decay away: http://www.naturalawakeningsmag.com/Healthy-Kids-Archive/Keep-Decay-Away/


Do you want to discover the hidden leader within you (this Saturday)?

If you’re a woman in dentistry, Mina Paul DMD can offer the pathways and options open to pursue leadership positions.

On January 28, Dr. Paul will address attendees at the Yankee Dental Congress Women’s Summscreenshot-2017-01-26-11-10-46it, Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, regarding:

  • unique challenges that women face while balancing all aspects of their lives
  • ƒƒthe importance of mentoring in leadership development
  • identifying the passion and leadership qualities within yourself.

Four hours of CE credits will accompany this daylong event, which includes a luncheon supported by a Lucy Hobbs Project grant, followed by a session on the topic Women Transforming the Profession: How to Help Us Succeed.
Featured speakers: Judith Fisch, DDS, First District Trustee of the ADA, Kathleen O’Loughlin, DMD, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the ADA; Carol Summerhays, DDS, Immediate past president of the ADA; and Irene Marron-Tarrazzi, DDS, First Vice President of the ADA.

Register today:  https://www.xpressreg.net/register/ydcx0117/landing.asphttps://www.xpressreg.net/register/ydcx0117/landing.asp


Saturday’s Women’s Summit at Yankee Dental Congress will feature discussion on the topic of Women Transforming the Profession. Speakers include: Judith Fisch, DDS, First District Trustee of the ADA, Kathleen O’Loughlin, DMD, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the ADA; Carol Summerhays, DDS, Immediate past president of the ADA; and Irene Marron-Tarrazzi, DDS, First Vice President of the ADA

What do dentistry and Mount Olympus have in common?

Strong female leadership, for one.

In Greek mythology, 12 deities (five female!) guided the universe from Greece’s Mount Olympus. Artemis (shown), the goddess of the hunt, wilderness, moon and archery, illustrated strength of will and self-confidence.


Patricia Blanton, DDS, PhD

Next week in Charleston, Patricia Blanton, DDS, PhD, will reference the archetype in her discussion of women in dental leadership roles during an event that spotlights just that.

The Lucy Hobbs Project,  which empowers women in dentistry to drive change and deliver success through networking, innovation and giving back, will host a celebration at The Francis Marion Hotel on September 22. During the event, attendees will earn CE credits while Dr. Blanton presents “Artemis in the 21st Century”.

Dr. Blanton, who was recently named interim dean of  James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine at Medical University of South Carolina, will reflect on how the increased numbers of women in leadership roles in the healthcare fields has the power to change the current system.

The concept, suggested most recently by Susan Blumenthal, former Deputy Assistant for Women’s Health, United States Department of Health and Human Services, challenges that we will need a legion of women leaders to chart the course.

Learning Objectives:

  • Review the challenges and opportunities facing dentistry today
  • Examine the role of leadership and ethics in facing these challenges.
  • Discuss historical precedents in leadership
  • Acknowledge dentistry’s changing demographics
  • Consider barriers to the advancement of women in the profession
  • Devise an algorithm to overcome these obstacles

Register today for the event at: lhp-charleston922.eventbrite.com

Giving back is one of three pillars within The Lucy Hobbs Project, and this year the Project is partnering with the National Head Start Association. In lieu of an event registration fee, attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable, healthy snack Sept. 22 event, which will be donated to the local Head Start Program of Charleston. 

The event will honor two recipients of The Lucy Hobbs Project Award, 2016 Industry Icon Theresa Gonzales, DMD, MS, MSS, and 2015 Woman to Watch Amanda Seay, DDS. Named for Dr. Hobbs, who in 1866 became the first American female to earn a degree in dentistry, the Project’s annual awards celebrate industry professionals for their distinctive talents.

Total recall: First Impressions shares Benco’s ‘bolder, brighter’ vision

In its June edition, a publication with the sole focus of making dental distribution sales reps better, offers an insider’s view of one company’s efforts to do the same.

First Impressions Magazine takes a guided tour through the four-day experience that was the Benco Sales Forum. Hosted in early March by the nation’s largest privately owned dental distributor – Benco Dental- the forum theme reflected the philosophy the company employs on a daily basis: “Bolder. Brighter. Better.”

According to First Impressions’ coverage:

“We were wowed by Dr. Gordon Christensen, the founder and director of Practical Clinical Courses, and keynote speaker Cary Mullen, a two-time Olympian and successful businessman. The Lucy Hobbs Project™ sponsored Libby Gill, an international speaker who helps maximize ‘Leadership DNA,’ and Dr. Terryl Propper, a previous recipient of the Lucy Hobbs Project Woman to Watch Award.”

Speaking of Dr. Gordon Christensen, the event held a surprise in store for dentistry’s key opinion leader. (Shown) Dr. Christensen was inducted into the Incisal Edge Innovators Hall of Fame by the dental lifestyle magazine’s editor and Benco Vice President of Marketing Paul Jackson.

Another significant celebration: Benco Dental Chairman and Chief Customer Advocate Larry Cohen was honored with an 80th birthday celebration. In addition to a menu of his favorites, Cohen was presented a one-of-a-kind gift: a bound volume of “Flat Larry” photos contributed by Benco associates across the nation, borrowing from the Flat Stanley® concept.

Learn more about the company’s initiatives for 2016 and hear from Kari Taylor, VP of Sales/Branch Operations, who joined the company’s senior leadership team in January:



Benco Chairman and Chief Customer Advocate Larry Cohen addresses the crowd Friday night, March 4, at surprise birthday celebration in honor of his 80th birthday. Shown, with his granddaughter Leah Cohen (left) and son, Benco Managing Director Rick Cohen (right), Larry thanks attendees for a unique gift: a bound volume of “Flat Larry” photos contributed by Benco associates across the nation, borrowing from the Flat Stanley® concept.