Who came up with dentures? When was it first used? Where was it invented? All of these questions and more popped into my head when I was reading about George Washington’s famous wooden dentures. When I was a kid, I always thought that dentures were recent inventions. I also thought that it can be used as a toy. I really believed that you can wind it up to make it chatter and wear it at the same time. Hey, I was a kid and my imagination is all over the place. But it got me interested in dentures. Aside from the toothbrush and toothpaste, I think these artificial chompers are the most important invention in dental medicine’s history. A world without them is a world with fewer smiles. So let’s take a look back at the history of one of the most underrated inventions. The dentures.
No. George Washington was not the first one to use dentures. He didn’t even use wooden teeth. Dentures go as far back as 2500 BC. It was found in what is now modern-day Mexico and is made up of wolf’s teeth. How cool is that?
Around 700 BC, Estrucans of Italy used gold wire or bands to attach human and animal teeth to act as replacement teeth. Even the ancient Egyptians were known to use false teeth and they don’t settle for just regular animal teeth. Two false teeth made up of bone wrapped in gold wire was found in the tomb of El Gigel. That is what I call ancient bling. The Europeans are a little late to the party as they only started using dentures after the Renaissance period.
The first known records of wooden dentures being used were in 16th century Japan. Those wooden chompers were used from the 16th century up until the early 20th century. In the 18th century, dentists started experimenting on using animal teeth, human teeth and ivory for making dentures. The ivory used was sourced from elephants, walruses and hippopotamuses.
In 1770, Alexis Duchâteau invented the first porcelain dentures. Just like any invention, it failed for the first few tries. He partnered with dentist Nicholas Dubois De Chemant and finally managed to make one that Alexis could use. Nicholas even improved the porcelain for the dentures making them more durable and less likely to chip.
Over the years, different materials were used to make dentures more durable and affordable. From vulcanite to celluloid, many materials were used until acrylic resin’s affordability and durability made it the top choice for making dentures.