Name of Object:

Implement to remove teeth


Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Date of Object:

Hegira 3rd century / AD 9th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Cast copper.


Length 10 cm

Period / Dynasty:





An implement similar to a pair of pliers that originally would have terminated with a saw-like edge, to facilitate a dentist in pulling, for instance, a septic tooth. The metal ring around the middle of the instrument would have moved and facilitated the doctor in manoeuvring the instrument, thus allowing him a better grip on the tooth. The early Muslims excelled in medicine and surgery, including dental medicine, and they created a number of instruments, which assisted them in carrying out different surgical operations, one of which is this.
Surgical operations included the use of general anaesthesia. For example an anaesthetic sponge was used; soaked in hashish oil, opium and belladonna; it was then dried in the sun. When the time came it was moistened and placed on the nose of the patient where the tranquilizing substances were absorbed by the patient's tissues sending him into a deep sleep, and thereby ensuring that he remained free from pain during surgery. Surgical instruments were subjected to processes of sterilisation in order that infection would not be transferred from one patient to another, especially in dentistry where the spread of infection was more likely. At this time Abu Bakr al-Razi (AH 251–313 / AD 865-925) had already arrived at the discovery of the preparation of alcohol which was used in the sterilisation of surgical instruments.

View Short Description

Not only did Muslim physicians excel in diagnosis and treatment but they also invented tools that would help surgery in general and dentistry in particular. They used different kinds of anaesthetics and sterilised their surgical tools.

How date and origin were established:

This instrument was dated based on its discovery, along with a number of other surgical instruments, in the city of Fustat. During the Abbasid period the city was well-known for its flourishing scientific movement, especially in the fields of medicine and surgery. Al-Fatih ibn Khaqan, a minister of the Abbasid caliph, al-Mutawakkil 'ala Allah (r. 232–47 / 847–61) built a hospital in Fustat in 247 / 861. Ahmad ibn Tulun (r. 254–70 / 868–84) also built the al-'Alaa Hospital in 254 / 868 in Fustat.

How Object was obtained:

The instrument was donated to the museum by Doctor Henry Amin 'Awad in 1975. He is a well known Egyptian specialist of skin diseases and has a wide range of interests in Islamic archaeological artefacts; he has written a number of works in this field.

How provenance was established:

It is likely that this instrument was produced in Egypt as it was discovered during archaeological excavations in Fustat along with a number of similar surgical instruments.

Selected bibliography:

–––––––, Quand les sciences parlent arabe VIIIe-XVe ap. J.-C./IIe-IXe siècle H,exhibition catalogue, Cairo, 2003.
Farukh, O., Tarikh al-'ulum 'ind al-Arab [History of Arab Sciences], Beirut, 1980.
Honcke, S., Shams al-Arab tastaa' ala al-gharb [The Sun of the Arabs Shines on the West] (Trans. Baidun, Farouq Wadso, Kamal), Beirut, 1981.
Muntasir, Abd al-Halim, Tarikh al-'ilm wa dor al-'ulama al-Arab fi takadumihu [History of Science and the Role of Arab Scholars in its Advancement], Cairo, 1980.
'Awad, Henry Amin, “Al-Jiraha fi al-'asr al-Islami [Surgery in the Islamic period]”, Majalat Dirasat al-Athariya al-Islamiya [Journal of Islamic Archaeological Studies], Vol. 3, Cairo, 1988.

Citation of this web page:

Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad "Implement to remove teeth" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;eg;Mus01;48;en

Prepared by: Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa HammadAl-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad

He holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities from the Faculty of Art, Cairo University and an MA in the same field from Assiut University. He has been working at the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, since 1974 and attended a training course at Vienna Museum in 1977. He has supervised sections of glass and manuscripts and, currently, coins. At the Museum he has participated in preparing exhibitions at home and abroad and has been a member of several inventory committees. From 1988 to 1999 he worked as a lecturer at Om al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and registered and organised the display of the acquisitions of the Civilisation Museum at the Shari'a and Islamic Studies Faculty at the University.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: ET 88


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

The Abbasids | Managing Prosperity

MWNF Galleries

Scientific objects


As PDF (including images) As Word (text only)