You probably know that dentures are natural-looking prosthetics that replace missing teeth, but you probably don’t know how these devices came to be. Here, we’ll explain the history of dentures!
The first example of false teeth dates back to 2500 BC in Mexico where dentures were found to be made of wolf teeth. Move forward to 700 BC when the Etruscans, the powerful and wealthy civilization of ancient Italy, used gold wire and bands to make a kind of denture using animal teeth. This technique even made it to Rome by 500 BC. Other evidence of dentures found in ancient times include two false teeth made of bone found in an Egyptian tomb.
The Japanese invented wooden dentures in the 16th century. These wooden dentures were created by putting soft beeswax into a patient’s mouth as a way of making an impression, much in the same way we use rubber cement today. Dentures were then carved from wood to match the mold perfectly. Later on, they incorporated human teeth, pagodite stone, animal horn, and ivory into the dentures. Fun fact: Although George Washington may be one of the most famous wearers of wooden teeth, he never actually wore wooden teeth! Washington’s various sets of dentures were made of a combination of ivory, lead-tin alloy, silver alloy, copper alloy, and cow, horse, and human teeth.
The 1700s saw many advances in the development of dentures. In 1728, French physician and father of modern dentistry Pierre Fauchard described how to construct dentures with a metal frame and animal bones in his famous publication The Surgeon Dentist. In 1774, British doctor Alexis Duchâteau made the first porcelain dentures. He wore dentures himself but was getting tired of the hippopotamus dentures he was wearing, which had begun to rot. He wasn’t entirely successful in his endeavor until he joined forces with British dentist Nicholas Dubois De Chemant, who helped him construct a more durable porcelain denture, which they patented in 1791. Before these advances were made, dentures were often made by ivory turners, goldsmiths, and students of barber-surgeons.
In 1820, goldsmith Samuel Stockton made another improvement to the porcelain denture by mounting dentures on 18 carat gold plates. Thirty years later, dentures were made of a hardened rubber called Vulcanite. Porcelain teeth would be set in Vulcanite, which was cheap and made dentures much more affordable to more people. Another denture base called celluloid, which used camphor as a plasticizer, was used in the production of porcelain dentures in 1890, but it smelled unpleasant and didn’t hold shape for long.
Celluloid ushered in the use of plastics in dentures, and thus most dentures were made from plastic by the 20th century. Acrylic resin was also used to replace Vulcanite as a denture base, because it is inexpensive and doesn’t smell. Both plastic and acrylic resin are still used today in dentures.
Are You Unhappy with Your Smile?
We want to help you have a dazzling smile you are proud to show off. Dentures are more realistic and comfortable than ever before, making them a terrific teeth replacement option. If you are missing teeth and want to learn more about how full dentures or partial dentures could enhance your smile, contact us today to schedule a consultation!