‘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.

NAFE names Benco Dental among the 2017 ‘Top 60 Companies for Executive Women’

Benco Dental, the nation’s largest privately owned dental distributor,  has been named one of the 2017 NAFE Top Companies for Executive Women by the National Association for Female Executives, to recognize American corporations where women have significant clout to make the decisions that affect their company’s future and its bottom line. The NAFE Top 60 Companies, released March 9, is featured in the February/March issue of Working Mother. The full list of this year’s winners are listed on workingmother.com/nafe.


33294112971_38d0a804d1_q“The NAFE Top 60 Companies for Executive Women are the leaders in the U.S. that have moved women into top executive positions and created a culture where talented women are nurtured, promoted and thrive,” says Betty Spence, president of NAFE. “We are very proud to honor their contributions to the advancement of women in the workplace.”

Named after the nation’s first female dentist, the Lucy Hobbs Project, founded by Benco Dental, provides a wide range of development activities to its female professionals and aspiring executives, from formal mentoring sessions and networking events to seminars with inspiring speakers, career coaches and business consultants. Women represent 33% of the execs with profit-and-loss responsibility here. In January 2016, Karen Kuklewicz-Friar was named CFO; Julie Radzyminski became VP of business innovation; and Kari Taylor was hired as VP of sales—all of them the first women in these positions. Moms can access up to eight partially paid weeks of maternity leave.

“NAFE emphasizes women with bottom-line and top-line responsibility—the positions that lead to the corner office—and we’re pleased to report an eight percent increase in women running billion-dollar divisions at the NAFE Top Companies this year,” says Subha V. Barry, vice president and general manager of Working Mother Media (WMM). “In addition, now nearly a third of these companies have five or more women on the board, with many simply increasing the number of board seats to add a woman.”  NAFE is a division of WMM.



At the March 9 event hosted in NYC to celebrate the 2017 NAFE Top Companies for Executive Women, Benco Dental Board Member Marcy Syms (at left) accepts the dental distribution company’s NAFE award.

The 2017 NAFE Top Companies application includes some 200 questions on female representation at all levels, especially the corporate officer and profit-and-loss ranks. The vetting process includes tracking access and usage of programs and policies that promote the advancement of women as well as the training and accountability of managers in relation to the number of women who advance. In order to be eligible for the NAFE Top Companies survey, entrants must have a minimum of 1,000 employees, two women on the Board of Directors and be a public or private company. NAFE also separately names the Top 10 companies in the nonprofit sector.

The National Association for Female Executives (NAFE), founded in 1972, serves 20,000 members nationwide with networking, tools and solutions to strengthen and grow their careers and businesses. Working Mother magazine publishes the annual NAFE Top Companies list. NAFE.com provides up-to-date information, a community for women in business, and access to member benefits. NAFE is a division of Working Mother Media, owned by the Bonnier Corporation.

Dentist, composer, motorcyclist: How one grandmother’s pioneering spirit lives on through her Sol.

During Sol Figueiredo’s first visit to a dental museum tucked in the mountains of Pennsylvania, she did not expect to be overcome with emotion.

When the Brazilian interior designer and architect walked past a dental operatory representing the 1900-1940 era, her eyes filled with tears.



Sol Figueiredo reminisces over dental instruments similar to those used by her grandmother, who in 1928 was the first female in her Brazilian city to earn a dental degree. (Eric Larsen/ Benco Dental)

Sol Figueiredo, who recently joined the CenterPoint Design staff of Benco Dental at its Orange County, California location, stopped in her tracks on a tour of the company’s home office in Pittston, Pa.

What caught her eye? Dental instruments similar to those used by her grandmother nearly 90 years ago in Brazil.

Dr. Margarida de Souza Menezes de Figueiredo was the only female dentist in her graduating class in 1928, and the first female dentist in the Brazilian city of Recife Pernambuco.

“I feel so close to her,” said Sol Figueiredo, of her paternal grandmother.

“She graduated in 1928 from dental school, and I’m in her world. It is so inspiring.”

Sol noted that her grandmother (shown above), in addition to establishing a dental practice and raising three children with her husband, earned national recognition in Brazil as a musician and composer.

“In 1954, she won a competition and her music was featured on the radio. During an interview they asked her how a woman in her time could be a dentist, a composer, drive a motorcycle?”


Dr. Margarida de Souza Menezes de Figueiredo, center, is interviewed in 1954 by RÁDIO NACIONAL for her work as a composer and musician. (Courtesy Sol Figueiredo)

Sol explained, “If there was something in her way, it wasn’t a problem, because she was very focused. She didn’t care what people said about her. She just lived her life intensely.”

Though Dr. Margarida died 12 years ago at the age of 98, Sol recalls the vibrancy with which her grandmother lived even in later years, when she resided with Sol’s parents and siblings in their home.

At age 18, Sol admired her 88-year-old grandmother’s zest for life.

“She was always singing,  reciting poems and telling people stories. It’s something that never leaves my mind: She never felt old.”

Mirroring that energy,  Sol, by age 28, had earned degrees in architecture and interior design from the Instituto Medotista Bennett College, collaborated with noted architects Andrea Chicharo and the late Eduardo Pinho, and established a successful design firm in Rio de Janeiro: Sol Figueiredo Interiors.


Dr. Margarida de Souza Menezes de Figueiredo, in 1928, aa she earns her degree in dentistry.

She relocated to the United States in 2005, where she met her husband Blue Michael Plante. They live today today in Corona, California with their daughter Yasmin, 5.

After her departure from Brazil, Sol took heart when her father, Fernando Antonio Menezes de Figueiredo, told her, “You’re like my mom, you’re not afraid to go away to learn.”

Sol explained,”I’m the first generation of my family in America,”

In her new position with Benco Dental’s CenterPoint Design team, Sol said she finds a unique opportunity to channel the legacy of her grandmother, Dr. Margarida de Souza Menezes.

“I’m proud that I’m going to be working in her field. I just think, ‘If she was alive today and young, what would she would be capable of doing?'”


Dr. Margarida de Souza Menezes de Figueiredo the only woman in her dental class (shown), and the first female dentist in the Brazilian city of Recife Pernambuco.


Which six women are redefining dentistry? Lucy Hobbs Project announces 2017 honorees.

Diverse yet similar, six professionals who redefine their field and reinvigorate all those in their orbit will earn accolades this spring at a celebration inspired by the first woman to earn a degree in dentistry.

The Lucy Hobbs Project, sponsored by Benco Dental, annually hosts a Celebration honoring exemplary women in the dental community. Named for Dr. Lucy Hobbs, who, in 1866, became the first American female to earn a degree in dentistry, awards are presented to honorees who embody the project goals. Last year’s event was hosted in Dallas, Texas with Dr. Pamela Schmidt, (shown above) receiving the Project’s 2016 Innovator Award.


Lucy Hobbs Taylor, née Lucy Beaman Hobbs (born March 14, 1833, Franklin county, NY—died Oct. 3, 1910, Lawrence, KS.), was the first American woman to earn a degree in dentistry.

Benco Dental will host The Lucy Hobbs Project 5th Annual Celebration on April 27 and 28, 2017 at Loews Hotel, 1200 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  During the gathering, The Project will honor six women selected as award recipients for setting new benchmarks in the dental profession.  The event, sponsored by Crest + Oral-B, KaVo Kerr Group, Ivoclar Vivadent, 3M, Hu-Friedy, GLO Science, Sunstar, Medicom, and Centrix, will also include CE credits, and a keynote speaker. Visit The Lucy Hobbs Project for updated information.

Register today at: http://www.regmadeeasy.com/benco/the-lucy-hobbs-project/2017

Blocks from the nation’s first hospital, medical school, and women’s medical school, in Philadelphia — the first planned city in the United States – The Lucy Hobbs Project will honor these six inspirational women:

  • Patricia L. Blanton, DDS, MS, PhD, recipient of the Industry Icon award, continually drives change with the optimism vital to leadership roles. Beginning with her first faculty appointment in 1967, Dr. Blanton embraced her talents as a groundbreaker and stays true to that course as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, BCD/TAMUS; Interim Dean, James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina; Clinical Professor of Stomatology, Medical University of South Carolina, and owner of a private practice in periodontics and implantology in Charleston. The first female President of the Texas Dental Association, she recently served as Vice-President of the American Dental Association and President of the American College of Dentists. Dr. Blanton most recently received the highest honor given from the ACD, the William John Gies Award.
  • Winifred J. Booker, DDS, recipient of the Humanitarian award, is the owner of busy pediatric dental practice in Owings Mills, Maryland. In 1996 Dr. Booker established The Children’s Oral Health Institute, where she serves as the CEO and Director of Development. Her work with the nonprofit has focused on advancing two paramount efforts: (1) oral health education programs, including Lessons in a Lunch Box: Healthy Teeth Essentials & Facts About Snacks™.  This initiative is on track to reach all 50 states and 50,000 elementary school children in 2017, and (2) preserving the state law she was instrumental in helping to get passed in 2012 that requires oral health education to be taught as part of the curriculum in all Maryland public schools from grades K to 12. Inventor of the Brushtime™ Bunny and the Dental Care in a Carrot™ case, Dr. Booker also dedicates her talents as a mentor, media spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, consultant, and contributing writer for national publications.
  • Margaret Fickess, RDA, CDA, MEd, recipient of the Innovator award, empowers dental assistant students with confidence and career independence as Program Director for Dental Assisting at San Diego Mesa College. There she began her own personal professional journey in 1968, and in 2009 designed an 11- chair dental clinic for the Allied Health Building. Fickess has served in nearly every capacity with local (San Diego County Dental Assistants Society) and state (California Dental Assistants Association) branches of organized dentistry for nearly 50 years. Her efforts to improve lives include active volunteerism through CDA Cares and Children’s Dental Health Clinic, along with dental education of the underserved at schools, daycare centers and the Braille Institute for the Blind.
  • Emily Ishkanian, DMD, recipient of the Mentor award, channels the drive that in 2011 led her to establish the Southern Nevada New Dentists committee of the American Dental Association into ongoing efforts to help all dentists succeed. In her current post as chair with the ADA’s New Dentist Committee, this University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine Alumni of the Year finds herself deeply embedded in national, state and local work to assist dentists in their transition from school to practice. A member of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, Dr. Ishkanian provides oral health care to patients in Henderson, Nevada while dedicating time outside the operatory to create a path for others’ professional growth.


  • Irene Marron-Tarrazzi, DMD, MS, recipient of the Woman to Watch award, defies odds at age 42 by becoming the youngest elected Vice President of the American Dental Association. A periodontist in private practice in Miami, she had been serving on the ADA New Dentist Committee while holding positions at the state and local levels. Marron-Tarrazzi initially received her DMD from Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas. Later, she received a master’s in science and a certificate in periodontology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. In 2003, she earned a DMD from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. She draws on her own story – one that encompasses success across two distinct cultures and languages — to inspire young women looking to pursue a career in dentistry and to encourage them to run for leadership roles at the national level.
  • Andrea Joy Smith, DDS, recipient of the Clinical Expertise award, creates solutions to her patients’ needs by seeking advanced education and training. Drawn to dentistry as a volunteer for the University of Southern California Mobile Dental Clinic, she earned her dental degree at the University of California San Francisco and has since committed 22 years to her patients’ oral health through Community Health Care and private practice. A published Diplomat in the International Academy of Mini Dental Implants, she has worked diligently since 2007 to embrace the technology to provide a less costly and less invasive alternative to medically compromised patients unable to receive conventional dental implants. In 2011, she established the Smile Again Now Foundation (SANF), which she presently leads in its efforts to extend access to dental care to members of the Sacramento community in need.

Powered by Benco Dental, The Lucy Hobbs Project with a network of more than 9,000 members, empowers women in dentistry to drive change and deliver success through networking, innovation and giving back. Named for Dr. Hobbs, the woman who, in 1866, became the first American female to earn a degree in dentistry, this project aims to bring women together from all facets of the dental industry – dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, receptionists, sales representatives and others. Free to join, it offers networking opportunities, educational programs and charitable events.
To learn more about previous winners of The Lucy Hobbs Project® Award, or to sign up for The Lucy Hobbs Project®, visit: www.thelucyhobbsproject.com


Four days and counting. Nominate a dental humanitarian today.

Over the past four years, The Lucy Hobbs Project® has been introduced to some incredible women in dentistry. These women have persevered throughout their careers and have set the benchmark high in our industry, similar to Dr. Lucy Hobbs, the first American woman to earn a doctorate in dentistry.

Today, Benco Dental invites nominations for the 2017 Lucy Hobbs Project Awards, which will honor six exemplary women in the dental community.
Earlier this year, Dr. Mary Teddy Wray received the 2016 Lucy Hobbs Project Humanitarian Award, and spent a few moments with Incisal Edge contributor Elizabeth Dilts.
Read more about Dr. Teddy Wray, below, and meet the other 2016 honorees at: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/9c07c7ab#/9c07c7ab/40
Then, take a moment to nominate an inspirational woman in dentistry before the November 18 deadline: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LucyHobbsProject2017


Dr. Mary Teddy Wray was just 16 years old when she left her native country, Uganda, to attend boarding school in New York. She escaped political instability at home – Uganda was ruled at the time by the notorious Idi Amin – but in the U.S. she struggled with money while putting herself through school. first at New York University and then Georgetown, sometimes subsisting on nothing but bread and water.

That searing experience has imbued in her a spirit of giving at her practice in Bel Air, Maryland. The only den­tist in her area who accepts Medicaid, Dr. Wray- “Dr. Teddy” to many of her patients – also offers low-cost treatment at several local nonprofits, including SARC, the Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Recovery Center, which provides abused women money, legal assistance and a safe place to live.

“But there was no one to help them with their bro­ken teeth,” she says of SARC’s clientele. “I thought that if I gave them a smile it would help their self-esteem, and they could get a decent job.”

Through SARC, Dr. Wray began treating patients at Anna’s House, a shelter run by Catholic Charities for homeless women and their families. One of her patients there, a woman in her twenties eager to start beauty school, needed nearly all of her teeth replaced, a task Dr. Wray completed over two months – at no cost.

She now sits on the boards of SARC and three other organizations, raising funds for all of them. In addition to her practice, too, she performs reduced-cost dental services for the ARC Northern Chesapeake Region asso­ciation for disabled adults, and the Mason Dixon Com­munity Services group for low-income residents.

“The work is satisfying,” Dr. Wray says of her 24/7 humanitarianism. “The happiness you feel is because you helped someone else. It makes you warm inside.”


Learn more about The Lucy Hobbs Project. (It’s free to join!): http://thelucyhobbsproject.com/

Nominate before the November 18 deadline: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LucyHobbsProject2017