The History of Dentures

Danny O'Keefe D.D.S. Dec 30, 2018

A set of denturesWhen you’re missing many teeth, a set of dentures is an ideal option to consider. They can restore the beauty and function of your smile, and help you bite, chew, and speak with renewed confidence. Family Dental Care offers custom full and partial dentures for tooth loss, helping the people of Jackson, MS smile proudly again.

Dentures have a fascinating story that reveals the many strides made in dental care throughout human history. Dr. Danny O’Keefe and his team would like to go over the basics of how dentures evolved.

Dentures of the Ancient World

Some of the first false teeth in the ancient world date back to 700 BC. During this time, the Etruscans created a crude form of dentures using human teeth and animal teeth. While nothing like the dentures of today, the use of found teeth would be a common practice for centuries to come.

Ivory was generally used to create the base for their early dentures. Elephants, walruses, and hippos were a common source of this ivory.

Dentures Made from Wood

In 16th century Japan, we get our first evidence of wooden teeth. These false teeth were created from impressions taken with beeswax. Initially, wooden false teeth were all-wood, though later versions of wooden teeth would use human and animal teeth, as well as animal horn and a kind of stone called pagodite.

Wooden false teeth would reach the western world in the 18th century, and continued to be used in Japan through the 19th century.

Dentures Made from Porcelain and Ivory

While wood was making strides in many circles, ivory continued to be a favored material when crafting bases for dentures. Eventually porcelain started to be used thanks to innovations in France during the 17th century. Further improvements to the durability of porcelain in the 18th century made it an even better material for dentures.

Whether porcelain or ivory, these dentures were held together with springs to keep them in place.

Did George Washington Really Have Wooden False Teeth?

No. Despite all the stories you’ve heard, George Washington did not have wooden teeth. He had multiple sets of dentures through his life, and they were all made from ivory with human teeth.

The Morbid Case of “Waterloo Teeth”

On the note of human teeth in dentures, we should mention that the Battle of Waterloo proved a major boon for people suffering from tooth loss during the 1800s. There were a combined 65,000 casualties during the battle, which resulted in many teeth that were used to make dentures.

Dentures Made from Vulcanized Rubber

While ivory was a common material for dentures from the very beginning, a major stride forward occurred in the 1800s. Charles and Nelson Goodyear (the tire company is posthumously named after Charles) created a rubber base for dentures. This vulcanized rubber base was pink, which meant that these dentures were cosmetically more appealing than ivory, and far more comfortable as well.

20th Century: Major Strides Forward

Throughout the 20th century, the primary strides forward had everything to do with materials and imaging technology. The use of plastics made dentures more affordable for countless people, and revolutionized many aspects of dentistry in the process. Improved x-rays and digital imaging meant that dentists could create even better custom false teeth for patients.

Learn More About Dentures

For more information about dentures and whether or not they are a good treatment option for you, be sure to contact an experienced cosmetic and restorative dentist. The team at Family Dental Care is here to help. You can reach us by phone at (601) 936-2526.

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