This time in Dunedin in 1886 …
You might remember that last year I wrote about a rather splendid ‘before and after’ advert from the Merthyr Tydfil Telegraph of 1861 – I’ve just come across an equally splendid image from Dunedin in 1886. Unfortunately I found the image via Pinterest, and all I have in the way of provenance was that it ‘came from a volume of poetry’ published in Dunedin in 1886.
Interestingly the dentist is using Nitrous Oxide as an anaesthetic.
As I’ve written before chloroform took the world by storm after its introduction in 1847, with dentists in Sydney advertising its use as early as 1848 and Queen Victoria having it during childbirth in 1853.
And it wasn’t just Sydney dentists and royalty – Darwin had it during a set of painful dental extractions and his wife Emma was an early adopter of its use during child birth.
However, in the last thirty years of the nineteenth century there began to be doubts about the toxicity of chloroform, and dentists gradually changed to using nitrous oxide, in preference to chloroform.
The change took place during the early 1870’s in New Zealand – the earliest examples I’ve been able to find is this one from the Star
And from the Lyttleton Times
However its use was already known by 1870
As in this article from the Daily Southern Cross of 1870.
So the use of Nitrous Oxide in 1880’s Dunedin is not as unusual as it might first seem – it looks as if New Zealand dentists were as advanced as their UK counterparts, and possibly even a little ahead of the pack …
And in Australia?
Much the same as New Zealand, with the first mentions of nitrous oxide as a dental anaesthetic in 1870 and adverts by dentists for extractions under gas following not long afterwards.
Even so, the death of an 88 year old woman in England who had died while having her teeth extracted under nitrous oxide anaesthesia garnered a fair amount of coverage, but then people are always suspicious of new things and stories about mishaps involving new treatments always help sell papers …