Primary Source

Transplanting Teeth

Engraving of transplanting teeth

Annotation

This print is by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and is dated 1787. It is a satirical comment upon the real practice of rich gentlemen and ladies of the 18th century paying for teeth to be pulled from poor children and transplanted in their gums. The dentist present is portrayed as a quack. There are even two quacking ducks on the placard advertising his fake credentials. He is busy pulling teeth from the mouth of a poor young chimney sweep. Covered in soot and exhausted, he slumps in a chair. Meanwhile the dentist's assistant transplants a tooth into a fashionably dressed young lady's mouth. Two children can be seen leaving the room clutching their faces and obviously in pain from having their teeth extracted. As people lost most of their teeth by age 21 due to gum disease, teeth transplants were popular for some time in England although they rarely worked.

This source is a part of the Children’s Health in Early Modern England teaching module.

Credits

A fashionable dentist's practice: healthy teeth are being extracted from poor children to create dentures for the wealthy. Coloured etching by T. Rowlandson, 1787. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0 (originally accessed October 13, 2008). Annotated by Lynda Payne.

How to Cite This Source

"Transplanting Teeth," in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/transplanting-teeth [accessed November 25, 2021]