In a paper read before members of the Veterinary Medical Association (probably in 1849) Thomas Gowing said
“I have …experienced great difficulties in many required operations on the teeth [of the horse] from the want of proper dental instruments.”
His solution? To invent a set of instruments which “I flatter myself, will be found useful… [and] I venture to recommend them to you with confidence.”
The set included: large and small forceps; a sliding chisel; a guarded chisel; lateral repellers; posterior repellers; a gum lancet, and a tooth rasp.
His paper was later published as An essay, descriptive and pathological, on the diseases incidental to the horse; containing remarks upon operative dental surgery and the instruments required. The 13 page essay contains an illustration of this dental set (above), some discussion of the possible causes of tooth disease in horses and explanations of how to use the instruments.
Thomas William Gowing 1810?-1888 was a London practitioner who qualified from the London Veterinary College in 1847. He served on RCVS Council for over twenty years, including periods as Vice President and was one of the Primary Fellows elected in 1877.
He gave a slightly modified set of these instruments to the RCVS Museum in 1866 – as recorded in a note which is bound within a book of pamphlets in our collection alongside his paper to the VMA.
I have yet to find any other illustrations of mid 19th century dental instruments in our historical collections but images of teeth appear frequently, usually as part of discussions on how to age a horse.
The ones I like best are those drawn by Edward Mayhew – a couple of which are shown below.
The teeth of a three year old horse
and the first plate in Mayhew’s book The Horse’s mouth: showing the age by the teeth