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History of Dentures

Updated: Feb 6, 2019


Throughout the years, many different types of dentures have been designed and experimented with. Materials ranging from ivory to acrylics have all been involved in trying to relieve the edentulous person. Here you will be taken through the exciting world that is the history of dentures.


Those Trusty Etruscans

In 700BC the ancient Italian civilisation known as the Etruscans developed the first design of the denture. They were made from human or animal teeth and ivory taken from walrus’, hippopotamus’ and elephants. Although these dentures deteriorated quickly and were prone to staining easily, they remained popular until the 1800s.



‘Wooden’-t you know?

It’s a commonly known fact that America’s first president, George Washington, had poor dental health. Though this is true, the widely believed theory that he wore wooden dentures is not. Washington actually sported a pair of the finest dentures within his period, carved from hippopotamus ivory with gold wire springs, brass screws and human teeth. New York dentist, Dr. John Greenwood, made these and placed himself firmly in the books of the history of dentures.



Stop ‘China’ break my teeth

In 1774, a French dentist named Alexis Duchâteau crafted the first pair of porcelain dentures. Wedgewood Co. supplied him with the porcelain paste needed and by 1804,Duchâteau claimed to have made over 12,000 dentures. However, the porcelain dentures were subject to criticism as they appeared too white and would chip easily.



The teeth that kept soldiering on

The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 was a pivotal point for the fate of Europe. Alongside this it played a large role in the history of dentures. Those among the wealthy in Britain had a highly sugary diet, which resulted in very bad dental hygiene. This meant there was an increase in need for dentures. Teeth were taken from the fallen soldiers of the Battle of Waterloo and put into animal ivory. ‘Waterloo teeth’ would cost around £100, which is roughly £6,500 today.



Creating beauty from ‘Ash’es

A highly notable name in the history of dentures is Claudius Ash. In the 1830s, Ash was able to successfully produce gold ‘tube teeth’. These were a formidable improvement of the porcelain teeth imported from France. Ash’s dentures consisted of 18-karat gold plates with springs and swivels. This made them not only more durable, but also more aesthetically pleasing.



May your dentures live long and prosper

In the 1840s, American brothers Charles and Nelson Goodyear made a revolutionary leap in the dental game. The two US brothers were able to use vulcanized rubber to create the base for dentures. The compound made from India rubber had porcelain teeth set into it. This was a much more cost-effective process.



Dentures will ‘resin’ate with you today.

Today’s dentures are made from an acrylic resin. The acrylic dentures adhere more securely and can last between 5 – 8 years. This is an even more affordable solution than the vulcanized rubber. It is also an easier process and the dentures are in fact much lighter. Accompanying this, there have been progressive steps in the field of denture accessories. For example it is now simpler than ever to clean and look after your dentures. Products such as cleaning tablets, brushes and baths are all available to keep your dentures clean. You can even get lining products to make the dentures more comfortable.



Dentures have come quite a long way since the first Etruscan designs. With the loss of teeth being an inevitable part of human life, there will no doubt be future improvements.

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