Throughout history, the rich and powerful tend to have access to the best medical care. Therefore, what you hear about George Washington’s teeth gives you a good idea of the typical standards of care during the time. But there are a lot of misconceptions about Washington’s teeth. Discover the truth about his teeth.
What His Teeth Were Made From
One of the most common misconceptions about George Washington’s teeth is that they were wooden. This is a myth and does not have any basis. The myth could have come from the wooden-like appearance some of his teeth took with age. It’s also possible that the rumor was started to hide that some of his teeth came from humans.
There is a long list of materials that were likely part of Washington’s teeth throughout his life. These include:
- Human teeth
- Horse and cow teeth
- Ivory (from hippos or elephants)
- Copper alloy (maybe brass)
- Silver alloy
- Lead-tin alloy
What to Know About the Human Teeth
There are also some rumors regarding the human teeth in Washington’s dentures. The reality is that historians aren’t sure if that is the case. It is possible, but it is not necessarily true. It is also possible that his dentist used the teeth he had in stock. It was very common for dentists to keep teeth on hand to make dentures. They usually have a sizable stash, as this lets them create natural-looking dentures.
That stock of teeth could come from numerous sources, but it was very common to see ads in the papers for teeth. Poor people were particularly likely to sell their teeth. This could have included people of all races and both free and enslaved people. Some of the teeth also likely came from the dead. We do know that Washington directly bought at least some teeth from African Americans, thanks to an entry in his account books.
Interestingly, George Washington even saved some of his teeth to use in a future denture. He knew his oral health was poor and that he would eventually need dentures and decided to keep some.
Washington Had Poor Dental Health Throughout His Life
As mentioned, part of the reason that Washington saved his pulled teeth was that he knew he would likely eventually need dentures. There are numerous references to various oral health ailments if looking at his various diary entries over the years. These include:
- Having teeth pulled
- Inflamed gums
- Lost teeth
- Aching teeth
- Ill-fitting dentures
- Payments to dentists
- Purchases of tooth-related products, such as toothache medicine, teeth scrapers, and denture files
By his first presidential inauguration on April 30, 1789, Washington had a single natural tooth. This was a premolar. He started wearing full dentures later that year.
Looking at what we know of George Washington’s teeth shows how far dentistry has come over the years. Issues such as inflamed gums, aching teeth, and ill-fitting dentures are now easily resolved with the proper treatment. You don’t need any special connections or to be the leader of the United States to receive treatment. You only need an appointment with Dr. Dhiraj Sharma. For more information or to make an appointment with a cosmetic dentist in Lincoln Square, contact our office today!