George Washington's - One set can be seen at the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, Maryland. Despite legends, none of them would be made from wood. They were carved from hippopotamus and elephant ivory. Sometimes the teeth were set in gold. His dentures had gold springs to hold the upper and lower teeth together.
George Washington's dentures: One set can be seen at the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, Maryland. Despite legends, none of them are be made from wood. They were carved from hippopotamus and elephant ivory. Sometimes the teeth were set in gold. His dentures had gold springs to hold the upper and lower teeth together. President Washington lost his teeth at a relatively early age. He suffered from poor dental health throughout his younger years. He had two sets of false teeth (dentures) made by the most prominent American dentist of his day, Dr. John Greenwood. They were carved from the finest hippopotamus ivory and gold. One of the sets was donated to the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore, the oldest dental college in the world. The dental school in turn loaned one of the dentures to the Smithsonian in 1976 for a bicentennial exhibit. The denture was stolen from a storage area of the Smithsonian (presumably for its gold content) and has never been recovered. Associaated Press reported that:``Researchers hoping to dispel George Washington's image as a stiff-jawed, boring old man are taking a bite out of history through a high-tech study of his famous false teeth. A forensic anthropologist from the University of Pittsburgh came to the dental museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, to supervise laser scans on one of the four known sets of Washington's dentures. The dentures are made from gold, ivory, lead, human and animal teeth (horse and donkey teeth were common components) Researchers were in Baltimore on Tuesday to perform laser scans on a set of Washington's dentures at the National Museum of Dentistry — dentures, they say, that were not made of wood as commonly believed. Scientists and historians plan to use the information to help create new, expressive, life-sized figures of plaster and wax to show aspects of the 6-foot-3 Washington's personality they consider underappreciated. "People know that Washington was great, but many people think he was boring and nothing could be further from the truth," said James C. Rees, executive director of the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, Washington's home in northern Virginia. "Of all the founding fathers, he was the most athletic, the most adventurous and clearly a man of action," Rees said. Washington, contrary to his grim-faced portrait on the dollar bill, was a great dancer and horseman. He started losing his teeth in his 20s. William M. Etter, of Irvine Valley College commented: ``George Washington suffered from poor dental health throughout his adulthood; beginning in his twenties he experienced regular toothaches, decay, and tooth loss. These problems were likely due to factors common during Washington's era, including a poorly balanced diet and disease, as well as genetics. As a result, he spent his life in frequent pain and employed a variety of tooth cleaners, dental medicines, and dentures. Contrary to later legend, none of Washington's false teeth were made of wood. Prior to Washington's service in the Revolutionary War, Dr. John Baker, the first dentist to fashion false teeth for Washington, fabricated a partial denture with ivory that was wired to Washington's remaining real teeth. In the 1780s, Washington employed the services of Jean-Pierre Le Mayeur, a French dentist living in America, but it is unclear precisely what dental services Le Mayeur performed. Le Mayeur probably fashioned a partial set of false teeth for Washington; the Frenchman also advertised he was experienced at "transplanting...put[ting] natural teeth instead of false," but no definitive evidence indicates he attempted such operations on Washington.1 Le Mayeur and Washington quickly became friends, and Le Mayeur was a guest at Mount Vernon on multiple occasions in the mid-1780s. When Washington was inaugurated President in 1789, only one real tooth remained in his mouth. Dr. John Greenwood—a New York dentist, former soldier in the Revolution, and a true pioneer in American dentistry—fashioned a technologically advanced set of dentures carved out of hippopotamus ivory and employing gold wire springs and brass screws holding human teeth. Greenwood even left a hole in the dentures to accommodate Washington's single
tooth as he believed a dentist should "never extract a tooth...[when] there is a possibility of saving it."2 When Washington finally lost this tooth as well, he gave it to Greenwood who saved this cherished item in a special case. All of Washington's dentures caused him pain and produced facial disfigurement, described by George Washington Parke Custis as "a marked change...in the appearance...more especially in the projection of the under lip." This physical change can be viewed in the well-known portraits painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1796.3 Washington complained that even the expertly constructed dentures made by Greenwood "are both uneasy in the mouth and bulge my lips out" and that the teeth "have, by degrees, worked loose."4 Not surprisingly, Washington found his ivory and metal contraptions difficult to use while eating or speaking. The ivory dentures also tended to stain easily, requiring extensive maintenance such as cleaning with wax and "some chalk and a Pine or Ceder stick" and "soake[ing]...in Broath."5''