September 4, 2021
Tooth loss isn’t a modern problem and considering the standards of dental care thousands of years ago, tooth loss was a matter of when, not if. On that note, dentures have been around for quite a long time.
From the Etruscans to the Japanese to George Washington and now in modern dentistry, keep reading to learn how necessity and innovation affected the evolution of dentures so that they became an excellent option for the modern patient.
In 700 BC, the Etruscans of Northern Italy made the first false teeth out of human or animal ones tied together with gold wires. The materials they used were not likely to withstand the pressure required for eating, so these dentures were for cosmetic purposes.
Indigenous tribes in Mexico replaced their missing teeth with wolf teeth. The wolf tooth was inserted into the space where the natural tooth was once located.
Ancient Mayans replaced missing teeth with carved stones, bits of bone, or even seashells. Surprisingly, the patient’s jawbone would fuse with these materials for a permanent fix.
The Japanese were the first people to create relatively modern-looking dentures using wood from the 1500s to the 1800s. These dentures relied upon the same type of suction techniques used to hold dentures in place nowadays.
They used softened beeswax to create what must have been the earliest type of dental impression, which was then filled with a harder wax to create a model of the gums to formulate the denture. Later versions of these dentures featured human teeth or imitations made from animal horns.
Pierre Fauchard is credited as the “father of modern dentistry.” In 1726, he utilized teeth fabricated from animal bone and a metal frame to make the first set of dentures. Alexis Duchateau created the first porcelain dentures in 1774 after being disgusted by the odor of his own ivory dentures.
George Washington’s Dentures
Contrary to popular belief, George Washington didn’t wear wooden dentures. His dentures were comprised of a carved hippopotamus ivory plate into which human teeth, along with some horse and donkey teeth, were placed. While these types of dentures were only an option for the wealthy, they did remain in demand into the early 1800s.
Dentures in the 1800s
In 1820, a goldsmith named Samuel Stockton began making high-quality dentures with porcelain teeth supported by 18-carat gold plates. In 1850, dentures were made from a hardened and durable rubber called vulcanite that was more affordable and comfortable than the porcelain dentures of the time.
Dentures in the 1900s
Dental implant technology arrived in the 1950s when a Swedish orthopedic surgeon realized that bone would fuse to titanium rods, creating a virtually unbreakable bond.
Fortunately, the techniques used to fabricate dentures today are incredibly sophisticated, creating lifelike teeth that feel comfortable to wear. Dentists now use polymethylmethacrylate, a type of acrylic resin available in many shades that closely resembles real gum tissue. Dentures are available in hundreds of shapes and colors.
The technology continues to progress for dentures, which is great news so that you don’t need to insert wolf teeth or seashells into your gums like civilizations past. Be sure to ask your dentist what specific variations of dentures they offer to find out if they are a good fit for you!
About the Author
Dr. Tyler Schaffeld blends biology, engineering, and art into his dental practice. He values strong relationships with patients and understands that have a talented staff around him is a key part of building that loyalty. Dr. Schaffeld offers partial dentures, full dentures, and implant-retained dentures, which “combine the best of both worlds.” To schedule your consultation or to learn about other dental services offered, visit his website or call (541) 426-3783.
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