There were no dental or medical schools at that time. Barber-surgeons and apothecaries ministered to all things medical and dental with absolutely no academic qualifications. Treatments included herbals, extractions, amputations and lots of bloodletting. (George Washington died in 1799 after “doctors” removed roughly 2.5 quarts of his blood over a 13 hour period --- for a sore throat.)
At the time of America’s first Thanksgiving, “teeth” were listed as the 5th leading cause of death- -most likely from infections and botched treatment attempts. Scurvy, a severe lack of vitamin C, was a big problem for the original colonists with tooth loss a frequent outcome.
Although toothbrushes have been around since the 15th century, the practice didn’t really catch on here in America until after WW II. During colonial times it was believed that cavities were caused by toothworms. (egads!) The concept of preventative oral care was not even on the colonial radar screen.Filling materials hadn’t been perfected, so most decayed teeth progressed to toothache and then removal. All manner of home remedies would be exhausted before submitting to the barber-surgeon. Without the benefits of antibiotics or anesthesia, pulling teeth had to be pretty dramatic. Although primitive extraction pliers had been developed, these instruments focused more on speedy removal (for obvious reasons) with less emphasis on accuracy. Root tips often remained after the top of the tooth was broken off by the force of the instrument.