Next Monday I have an appointment with the dentist so I can sympathize with JEMIMA CONDICT when she wrote in her journal on a Monday morning in 1775: “Resolved if Possible to have my tooth out.”
So down I went to Dr. C. and he got his Cold iron ready. my toth was easy & I told him I Dast not venter. I new hed hurt but I Could Not make him Promis he would Not; tho I thought he began to Pety me a Little & that was what I Did it for; for its true I believe I want so fraid as I pretended to be. I was In hopes he’d Draw it easer for it & I Dont know but he Did for he was mighty Carefull, but when he Put his Contrivance in my mouth I puld them out agin. at Last they fell a lafing at me & Said if I dast not have A tooth Drawd I Never would be fit to marry. I told them I never Recond to be if twas as Bad as to have a tooth Drawd. at which they all fell a lauging for I was fooll for them; but it want Long before I could put my Toth in my pocket & laugh with the Best of them. So I Come home but I got such a Cold in my face that it akt all the rest of the week, but when I got home I went to Bed for I hed slep but little for Some time before. . . .
I guess Jemima wasn’t using a toothbrush and tooth powder as some others of her time did. Or a wet cloth and powder rubbed on the teeth. Obviously her tooth had decayed and she went to a blacksmith/surgeon/barber who performed the extraction. She apparently did not have a tooth taken from another person, inserted into her mouth and wired into place. This practice was quite common. (See this post about teeth taken from young Irish immigrants.) One had to be careful that the tooth did not come from someone who was ill in order not to contract the disease. Pictured is an instrument called, not surprisingly, a key, commonly used in the eighteenth century. The base was fitted around the decayed tooth and the key was turned in order to extract it. It is not clear that this was the “Contrivance” Jemima writes about.