As soon as we begin to learn some American history in school, we hear this myth. Not only do we believe it, but we revel in the fact that it even happened. But this little factoid does, in fact, do a disservice to our nation’s first president (and his dentists), who, plagued with a variety of tooth ailments early in life, actually sought out the most advanced dental practices of his time. The fun trivia? George Washington had wooden teeth
Washington began losing teeth in his twenties. In 1783, at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, he enlisted the expertise of Jean Pierre Le Moyer, a French naval surgeon who gained a reputation for his pioneering work in tooth implantation. Records show Washington purchased nine teeth from his own slaves in 1784, and documentation strongly suggests the teeth were meant for implantation or to be used in his own dental prosthetics.
Why real human teeth? The 18th century saw a rise in the use of real teeth to replace rotting ones, and with good reason. While ivory and bone were prized for their ability to duplicate human teeth, the solution would be a temporary one. Saliva will eventually break down false teeth made from bone, leaving the wearer with a rotten taste in his mouth and a serious case of halitosis.
By the time Washington became president in 1789, he possessed only a single tooth and needed new dental prosthetics. John Greenwood, considered by many to be the father of modern dentistry, made several sets for him during this time using gold, metal, and hippopotamus ivory—which has a thick enamel coating—to create upper and lower mouth plates connected by gold-wire springs. In one version, both human and cow teeth were secured into the plates using brass screws.
Although they were not wood, Washington’s false teeth sound like they were torture to wear. Springs designed to keep the plates in place pushed Washington’s mouth open, requiring him to remain vigilant just to keep it closed. Washington found them so irritating he often kept his speaking engagements to a minimum. His second inaugural address was the shortest in history at only 135 words.
Schedule an appointment today with Dr. David Lunt, DDS by calling 818-885-7230. Visit the website for more information at www.davidluntdds.com.
Dr. Lunt gladly accepts patients from Cal State Northridge, Burbank, San Fernando, Topanga Canyon, Valley Glen, Agoura and all surrounding areas.