What is an Osteotome?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Ostetomes are simple devices that are designed to make it easier to cut through or in some manner mark bone. Developed during the first half of the 19th century, the osteotome was often used in medical care facilities as well as on battlefronts to treat patients who required the removal of a portion of bone in order to survive. While the tool is rarely used for this purpose today, a form of the device is often utilized in contemporary dentistry.

The origins of the osteotome are usually traced to the year 1830. Developed in Wurzburg, Germany by Bernhard Heine, the first device was a simple handheld tool that could be used to make cuts into the skull with greater precision than other types of knives and saws. Accessories were soon developed that made it possible to adapt this basic design for other uses, such as burrowing into the bone structure of arms and legs, making it easier to cut away sections of bone that had become infected or were so badly damaged that repair was not feasible.


For the rest of the 19th century and well into the 20th century, the osteotome continued to be a valuable tool in the hands of physicians. The cutter osteotome could slice through an ulna or tibia with greater ease than any other device, which meant the patient would spend less time on the operating room table. Much of the efficiency of use had to do with the fact that the surgical osteotome featured a cutting edge where both sides were beveled. This was particularly important in situations where the surgery took place without any type of deadening agent for the patient, other than whiskey or some other sort of alcoholic beverage.

In time, a form of the osteotome was developed for use in dental procedures. Because of the high degree of accuracy that can be achieved with the device, oral surgeons are easily able to modify the quality and quantity of bone around the implants to ensure a stable fit. The end result is implants that look natural and will cause the patient little to no discomfort during the recovery period and beyond.

The dental osteotome has proven to be more lasting than the surgical model. While ostetomes for use in dental implantation have remained common today, more efficient tools replaced the older version of this cutting device during the 1920’s. By the middle of the 20th century, the original design, along with its accessories, had virtually disappeared from use in most countries.


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