A Closer Look at Some Dental Prosthetics Throughout History

October 13, 2022

From dentures to bridges to implants, dentists like Dr. Dhiraj Sharma regularly use dental prosthetics to treat patients. But you may not realize that humans have been using dental prosthetics for thousands of years.

Early Gold Teeth

Although people have been filling cavities since at least 13,000 years ago, those weren’t quite prosthetics. Historians found the use of gold in dentistry for thousands of years, including as wires to keep teeth in place during the third millennium B.C. But the earliest proven use of gold teeth as dental prosthetics happened before the Romans. 

Etruscan Bridges

The Etruscans lived before the Romans, specifically on the Italian peninsula around 700 B.C. They had some of the earliest dental bridges. These used silver and gold to hold a row of fake teeth. Those false teeth were from animal or human teeth.

An even more interesting side note of this is that archaeological evidence shows some of these bridges replaced deliberately removed teeth. That indicates that Etruscan dentists or doctors could diagnose unhealthy teeth.

The First Full Dentures

Experts say Japan may have made the first full dentures during the 16th century. Dentists would make a mold of the mouth using beeswax. Then they carved Japanese boxwood to fit. This method would take at least another 200 years to reach Europe.

Prosthetics During the American Revolution

For a good idea of what dental prosthetics looked like during the American Revolution, look to Paul Revere. In addition to his famous ride, he was known as a dentist and silversmith. He regularly used ivory when creating dental prosthetics. In fact, he even identified the body of a friend based on his dental prosthetics. Revere was far from the only dentist to use ivory during this period, as it was incredibly popular then.

Throughout this time, it was also still very common to use human teeth. One example of this is the “Waterloo teeth.” These came from up to 50,000 dead soldiers following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. These teeth were commonly connected to an ivory base. Not all human teeth came from soldiers. Some also came from executed criminals. Some poor people even sold theirs.

The Introduction of Porcelain and Dental Ceramic

Porcelain prosthetics became popular during the late 18th century. Alexis Duchateau from England was credited with the first successful porcelain teeth. These early porcelain teeth were unnaturally white, but dentists developed ways of making them seem more natural over the years.

By 1889, Charles H. Land had created dental ceramics. This was a crown that had been covered in porcelain. The earliest ceramic crowns had a high risk of developing cracks. However, by the 1950s, those issues were largely resolved.

Modern Dental Prosthetics

By the 1980s and 1990s, we had the modern dental prosthetics we use today. Today’s prosthetics look incredibly natural, and it frequently takes a trained eye to spot them.


The modern dentures and bridges we use today result from centuries of development. They appear natural and are highly durable, a significant improvement over some of the earliest dental prosthetics. Interested in learning more about dental bridges in Chicago? Contact us today!


You might also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}