True or false — George Washington’s dentures were made of wood.
If you said true, you have a lot to learn; not only about the first U.S. Commander-in-Chief, but also about the history of dentures.
For the record, Washington lost all but one of his adult teeth by the time he became president and his dentures actually consisted of carved hippopotamus ivory in which human, horse, and donkey teeth were fitted and held together with gold springs.
It might also surprise you to learn that dentures have been around – albeit in primitive form – for almost 3,000 years. Historians have traced their advent to approximately 700 BC, when Etruscans in Northern Italy made them out of human or animal teeth fastened together with gold bands. By the 5th century BC, the Romans adapted this technique. Naturally, these not-so-false teeth deteriorated before long but retained their popularity well into the 19th century because they were simple to produce.
So, where did Washington’s wooden tooth myth likely come from? Wooden dentures did exist. They were invented in Japan in the early 16th century. They were carved based on an impression of the patient’s mouth using softened bees wax that was then filled with harder bee’s wax. However, ivory dentures taken from the tusks and teeth of walruses, elephants, or hippopotami were more popular in the 1700s.
Circa 1774, Alexis Duchateau created the first porcelain dentures. However, these tended to chip and appeared too white to fool anyone. Nevertheless, in 1820, a goldsmith named Samuel Stockton created higher-quality porcelain denture mounted on an 18-carat gold plate. Then, in 1830, Westminster silver and goldsmith Claudius Ash created an improved porcelain denture with gold springs and swivels. Ash’s later models had the porcelain set into Vulcanite, a form of hardened rubber.
Today, most dentures are fabricated by commercial dental laboratories or by a denturist using a combination of acrylics. These teeth come in hundreds of shapes and colors and are widely available.
Getting fitted for dentures is a process that begins with an initial dental impression of the maxillary (upper jawbone) and mandibular (lower jawbone) ridges of the patient’s mouth. This is done to create a stone model that represents the upper and lower arches of the patient’s mouth and can be used to create a custom impression try for a second, more detailed and accurate impression.
After a final impression is taken, a wax rim is fabricated to establish a vertical dimension of occlusion – basically, how the teeth will touch each other when chewing or at rest. Once the position of each arch to the other is known, the wax rim is used as a base to place the teeth in correct position. The arrangement of teeth is subsequently tested in the patient’s mouth, so adjustments can be made as necessary. Finally, when the occlusion has been verified, the denture is processed, and the finished product is more durable, stain resistant, and natural-looking than the dentures our forefathers had to wear.
If you are thinking about getting dentures or require any dental care, the first step to attaining your best smile is to consult with your dental professional. Depending on your specific needs, the friendly staff at Dedicated Dental will recommend a treatment plan that will leave you with a picture-perfect smile. If you have any questions about our family and cosmetic dentistry services and would like to schedule an appointment or consultation, please call (702) 551-5199. You can also request an appointment online.