16 Nov George Washington’s teeth are made of what?
George Washington is one of the most beloved historical figures in the United States of America. Most people think of him for his bravery, charisma, and leadership. The beautiful painting Washington Crossing the Delaware detail these features perfectly. The artist, Emanuel Leutze, paints Washington as in a heroic stance leading his men to battle. For most people it’s very inspiring. For me, on the other hand, when I see it, I always wonder if ol’ George has his wooden dentures in. That’s right, wooden dentures. Somewhere in my elementary education I was taught that George Washington had wooden teeth.
It turns out that his wooden dentures were just folklore. According to Kathryn Gehred, researcher at the University of Virginia, “they were actually made from a variety of materials, including human teeth.” Welp, human teeth, even weirder than wood, in my opinion. Discovering that Washington’s teeth weren’t wooden got me thinking about the origins of dentures. After I learned about the origin, I started thinking about what the future holds for dentures and it seems promising.
The earliest evidence for humans using false teeth or dentures comes around 7th century BC, with the Etruscans in Northern Italy. The Etruscans would use animal teeth along with human teeth tied together with gold bands (Donaldson). The most interesting part in the progression of dentures is the way they’ve been fabricated over time. Dentures have gone from animal teeth fastened together by gold bands, to meticulously handcrafted wood, to porcelain teeth mounted on gold plates. Today the process is a little more complex.
The creation of dentures is a long and tedious task. To get a perfect and comfortable fit for patients, dentists and patients have to meet several times and take multiple molds and measurements of their mouth in order to get dentures to fit right. After dentists get the complete measurements, they typically send them to a lab where they get put together in a slow, step by step process. This whole process can take up to 6 weeks. On top of the long wait is the price. Heat cured dentures can cost over $1000. It’s hard to put a price on comfort but there does seem to be some room for improvement on wait time and cost. With advancements in three dimensional printing technology, it seems like there is a vehicle for that improvement. Some companies have already started working towards providing faster, less expensive, and better fitting dentures. DENTCA, a California based dental company, already has an FDA approved three dimensional printed denture base. Another dental company, SprintRay, claims that their three dimensional printed denture try-ins only cost around $4 to make per arch and only take around 2 hours to make. This technology could drastically improve price and wait times for denture construction.
Three dimensional printing seems to be growing in the medical industry by providing patients with less expensive prothstetics. Maybe the dental industry can join other branches of medicine and increasingly incorporate three dimensional printing as a way to increase efficiency and decrease cost in all aspects of dentistry.
Donaldson, J.A (1980). “The use of gold in dentistry”