Our Founding Father’s Contribution to the Foundation of Dentistry

Contrary to popular belief George Washington did not have wooden teeth.  The enzymes found in saliva break down wood too quickly to make wood ideal for dentures.

According to history, George Washington began loosing teeth at the age of 18.  Historians argue that the stress of being a general in the army compiled with poor genetics, contributed to Washington’s many oral hygiene problems, including frequent abscess and infection in the mouth.  It was routine procedure for Washington to have his teeth extracted.

Washington’s dentures, composed of ivory, gold and animal teeth (such as hippopotamus or human), were made by Dr John Greenwood, a respected dentist of the time.  Two gold plates lined the upper and lower arches of the mouth, fixed together by springs, which were believed to mal-function frequently.  It is said that Washington had to apply force to keep his mouth closed, and when relaxed his mouth would spring open.  There are even stories about the president having to cancel speeches because his mouth was stuck open.

One set of George Washington’s dentures was given to the Maryland Dental School, where it remains to this day.

A second was given to the Smithsonian, but stolen, presumably for its gold content.

Click here  to see a picture of George Washington’s actual teeth.


Tags: , , ,