Helping People Eat and Speak Since 2500 B.C.
Today, traditional dentures are one of the most common forms of tooth replacement for those who have experienced full or partial tooth loss. They restore the ability to eat, speak, smile, and feel confident even when someone experiences complete tooth loss. But, did you know that even though dentures are still commonly used, there are records of ancient dentures dating back all the way to 2500 B.C.?
That would make false teeth one of the oldest, yet still widely used technologies of our time! Granted, dentures have evolved quite a bit since their first record, but the history behind them is truly fascinating.
A Brief Timeline of the Evolution of Dentures
- 2500 B.C. – the first tooth replacement was discovered
- 700 B.C. – animal teeth wrapped in gold wire used for tooth loss
- 1500 – wooden dentures were commonplace
- 1700 – human teeth and ivory were the materials of choice
- 1800 – rubber and porcelain paved the way towards modern dentures
- 1900 – plastics and acrylics became the solution of choice and are still used today
The First Records of Tooth Replacement
Before modern dentistry, tooth loss was very common due to untreated disease, improper diets, or harsh living conditions. We know this because many skulls have been found with missing or badly damaged teeth, yet ancient skeletons also show that people have always tried to find solutions to repair or replace their missing teeth.
The earliest record dates back to 2500 B.C. when a skeleton was found in what is today’s Mexico with animal teeth in place of what was once a normal human tooth. Further cases in Egypt and Italy have shown that false teeth were created from wrapping wires around carved bone or other animal teeth and essentially tying them into the mouth. Imagine trying to eat with the canine tooth from a wolf tied into your mouth!
While these early “solutions” were likely not very practical or useful, they demonstrate the importance of our teeth and how people would go to almost any lengths to find a solution to tooth loss.
The Many Materials Used to Create Early Dentures
As the centuries pass, humans become more and more adept at creating solutions for tooth loss. In early Japan, wooden dentures were commonly used for those with full or partial tooth loss. Wooden dentures proved to be effective enough for most, but dentists began experimenting with many other materials as well to discover a solution that wouldn’t rot, crack, or decay. Some common materials used during the 18th century included gold, bone, ivory, wood, and porcelain.
While its commonly thought that President George Washington wore wooden dentures, this has actually been proven to be a myth. President Washington likely had several different pairs of dentures over his lifetime, but they were crafted from ivory, gold, and real human teeth (that were not his own)! Some historians believe that the origin of this myth came from his dentures becoming stained from wine consumption, giving them a dull, wooden color.
Robbing Dentures and Teeth from the Deceased
With the increase in sugar production and consumption in the early 1800s, tooth loss due to decay and caries was increasingly common. So much so, that dentists encountered shortages of denture supplies and were finding themselves unable to help people restore their mouth. During this time, grave robbing for dentures and teeth of the deceased became commonplace. According to the BBC, after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, tooth hunters looted the bodies of soldiers for fresh teeth to sell to dentists! These early dentists would then fashion ivory and bone dentures for their patients. Luckily, today’s dentures don’t use any real human teeth and all the materials are ethically and naturally sourced.
Paving the Way to Modern Dentures
Instead of using precious metals like gold and the bone of humans, dentists eventually started creating dentures from hardened rubber and porcelain. This is much closer to how dentures today are made. These artificial denture materials evolved over time, for better or worse, until close to the 1940’s. Finally, acrylic resin became the most common base material for dentures due to its affordability, durability, and ease of repair. This material is what is now commonly used throughout the world when creating dentures.
Not Your Grandparents Dentures
While it is true that we still use acrylics and porcelain today to create modern dentures, the dentures made in dental offices like ours at Premier Dentures are far from what you may have seen your grandparents wear. Now, we are able to make thinner, more durable dentures that fit comfortably on the gums with minimal slippage or speech problems. A skilled denture specialist and technicians like our own Cody Waid and Vanessa Waid can ensure that your dentures not only fit comfortable, but look natural in your smile. With our customized dentures, you’ll be able to eat, speak, and smile with confidence again.
Looking for an Expert Denture Team?
Schedule a free consultation at Premier Dentures today by calling 208-884-8844 and get started on the path towards loving your smile again!