Thanks to advances in modern dental care, the number of adults who will need dentures over their lifetime is dwindling. For those who do, modern dental prosthetics are more comfortable and discreet than ever before. But what did our ancestors use? Read on to learn about the mythology and history of wooden teeth.
The History Of Wooden Teeth (And Other Clever Dentures)
A few decades after Washington's lifetime, the demand for dentures had grown so great in Europe that dentists' suppliers were turning to grave robbing, according to the BBC. Dentistry in the early 1800s was unregulated and even dangerous, but rampant sugar consumption meant that people who could afford it turned to barbers, doctors, jewelers and even blacksmiths for tooth extractions.
In 1815, enterprising tooth hunters turned to the thousands of corpses left from the Battle of Waterloo for a fresh supply, says the BBC. Looters sorted teeth to make attractive matched sets for sale, and early dental professionals boiled and shaped them to fit ivory dental plates. Luckily, by 1832 the British Anatomy Act made it illegal to transport human bodies, and the popularity of human dentures began to steadily decline.
Today, we know that preventing tooth decay in the first place is preferable to a full set of dentures — no matter what they're made of. Practicing good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing daily can help prevent decay and the need for tooth extractions.
For people who do wear full or partial dentures, having them made to fit by a trained dentist ensures that they will be as comfortable and natural looking as possible. Before inserting your dentures, says the American Dental Association (ADA), use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your gums, tongue and the roof of your mouth. Rinse your dentures to wash off any leftover food particles, and use that same soft-bristled brush along with a non-abrasive cleanser to clean them. This will prevent them from getting scratched while maintaining their color. That way, no one will mistakenly think you have wooden teeth just like George Washington — even though he didn't!
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.