The History Of Dentures

Ivory Dentures with Human Teeth

Now a days it is quite easy to get a replacement for a missing tooth, but not too far in the past, people would would go to extreme measures to try and replace their teeth.

The First Dentures

The Ancient Egyptians were the first to use dentures in 1500 BC. They were made from human teeth threaded together with gold wire. In 700 BC Italians began using animal teeth to replace their own. Tribes in Mexico also did this, using wolf teeth. Ancient Mayans even replaced missing teeth with carved stones, bits of bone or even seashells. These materials worked well because they would fuse with the patient’s jaw bone for a permanent fix.

Wooden Dentures

Wooden dentures were common in japan from the 16th century. A priestess who lived in the Kii Province wore the first wooden teeth. This style of denture was used up until the 19th century. However, they weren’t the common option in the western world.

Ivory Dentures

George Washington wore ivory dentures made from hippopotamus tusks. Many people wore ivory dentures made from walrus, hippo or elephant tusks. However the material deteriorated quickly and stained yellow promptly. These types of dentures were still being worn in the early 19th century.

Human Teeth

In the 1800s, sugar consumption increased rapidly in Europe, especially England. This led to lots of people losing their teeth by the time they were 50, needing a way to replace them. French Physician Pierre Fauchard is known as the father of modern dentistry after publishing a book called ‘The Surgeon Dentist’ which included dental care practices that are still followed to this day. Shockingly, the teeth from soldiers who died in the Battle of Waterloo were used as replacements. Teeth were removed from cadavers and mounted onto an ivory base. These teeth were very popular among the elite and were seen as a sign of wealth.

Porcelain Dentures

The first pair of porcelain dentures were produced in 1744 by a British physician. However, they looked unnaturally white and they were very fragile. In 1820 porcelain teeth were mounted onto gold plates with springs and swivels which allowed the teeth to work more efficiently.

Vulcanite Dentures

In the 1850s, vulcanite was used to make dentures. Vulcanite is a type of hardened rubber. It is cheap meaning that dentures became available to people who could not afford them in the past. For the first time ever, middle class people could wear false teeth along with the rich and wealthy.

Modern Dentures

In the 20th century, acrylic and rubber compounds were used in the development of false teeth. Modern dentures are made from a blend of acrylic resin, metal and sometimes porcelain. Due to the improved quality of dental hygiene advice, the need for dentures has decreased.

Famous Figures From The Past

Centuries ago, the only people that could afford dentures were the rich and wealthy. Here are some examples of wealthy figures who used to wear dentures.

George Washington

Contrary to the common legend, George Washington’s teeth were actually made from ivory, not wood. Washington suffered from poor dental health throughout his life, caused by many elements including a poorly balanced diet and disease. Due to this, he involved the help of Dr John Baker to fashion his false teeth from ivory that was wired to his last remaining teeth.

When Washington was inaugurated President, he only had one tooth remaining. Dr John Greenwood made an advanced set of dentures made from hippopotamus ivory and using gold wire springs and brass screws to hold the teeth in place. He even left a hole to accommodate Washington’s final tooth.

Queen Elizabeth

Before dental prevention practices were used, problematic teeth were extracted left and right. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign from 1558-1603, ivory dentures hadn’t been developed. Her only solution was to stuff bits of cloth into the gaps in her teeth when attending public events.