Wood, Ivory, And Rocks: Materials For False Teeth Throughout Time

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Today, false teeth are often made of porcelain, ceramic, resin, and even metal. However, throughout history people used some very different materials for false teeth.

Teeth Of The Dead

Believe it or not, using human teeth was the most common way to replace missing teeth. These teeth would be collected from graves, executed criminals, or even pulled from the mouths of those who needed to sell them for money. One of the largest incidents of teeth scavenging happened in 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo killed 50,000 soldiers. Their teeth were pulled and sold to those living in England.

They Would Not Use Wood

When you think of wooden false teeth, you may think of George Washington. This is actually a myth; his teeth were made of ivory. Wooden false teeth were not common throughout history because the saliva in the mouth made the wood mushy overtime. However, the oldest known pair of complete dentures was made of wood. Created in Japan, these teeth were thought to be worn by a priestess of the Ganjyoji Temple.

Real Canine Teeth

Ancient tribes in Mexico replaced their missing teeth with animal ones, often using the teeth of a wolf. The Italians in 700 B.C. also used animal teeth, threading them next to human teeth.

Rocking Your Smile

One would think that having a rock in your mouth would harm teeth, but this was actually a successful tooth replacement material for the Mayans in 600 A.D. They would place a carved stone in the tooth socket which the jaw bone would grow around to hold in place.

Ivory Whites

In the 1700’s in America, ivory became a popular false tooth material. This ivory was taken from elephants, hippos, or walruses, and combined with other materials like human and animal teeth.

Too White Porcelain

Porcelain dentures were first created by Alexis Duchateau in 1774 when he was living in Britain. However, these dentures chipped easily and were far too white to look natural. In 1840, a silver and goldsmith named Claudius Ash would improve upon the design, mounting porcelain dentures on gold plates, springs, and swivels.