While advances in denture and dental technologies have provided amazing results for patients in need of a replacement set of teeth today, the need for dentures dates back much farther than the invention of advanced polymers and porcelain used today. While most school aged children have heard stories about George Washington’s wooden teeth, early forms of dentures date back to thousands of years before the founding fathers decided to Boston Harbor into the world’s largest glass of tea.
Archeological evidence suggests that ancient Egyptians had mastered the technology to create a primitive form of early dentures by around 1500 B.C. Using human teeth threaded with gold wire, the Egyptians were able to create a functioning set of false teeth to use as a replacement for those that had rotted or fallen out. However, the practice of replacing teeth dates back even earlier than the ancient Egyptians.
While not using wire or any other device to hold together teeth, ancient tribes living in Mexico would replace broken or lost teeth with those from animals, most likely wolves. While archeologists don’t know the exact process, it seems likely that these tribes would simply insert these animal teeth into the sockets along the gum line that used to house the lost teeth.
The practice of using animal teeth wasn’t one that faded quickly throughout history either. By 700 B.C. the Etruscans of Italy were using gold wire to bind human and animal teeth together in order to act as a replacement set. While these early forms of dentures fell apart quickly, they were easy to produce and replace with minimal effort. This early practice of using wire to bind human and animal teeth together would remain the standard in Europe until the Renaissance.
Japan holds the claim of having history’s oldest known set of complete dentures, a set of wooden teeth that trace back to the Ganjyoji Temple in Kii Province. Made from a species of tree commonly referred to as Japanese Box, or Buxus microphylla for all of you botanists out there, these early teeth were believed used by the priestess Nakaoka Tei. The dentures had almost the same shape as modern dentures, and were held in the mouth through suction. The Japanese continued to use wooden dentures as the primary form of tooth replacement until the Meiji era of the late 19th century.
However, even while the Japanese continued using wood to construct their dentures, the first set of porcelain dentures were created in Europe around 1770 by the British physician Alexis Duchateau. In 1791, a former apprentice of Duchateau, Nicholas Dubois De Chemant, applied for the first patent for dentures, and began marketing his product to patients a year later.
From this point forward in history, denturist began creating even more reliable and expensive forms of dentures. In London during the early 19th century, a goldsmith by the name of Claudis Ash began manufacturing high-quality sets of porcelain dentures that featured 18-carat gold plates. For those in need of a less expensive denture alternative, Ash also sold sets made from Vulcanite, a form of hardened rubber.
While the days of animal teeth and wooden dentures are thankfully long gone, you can always count on Robert Cain, a Portland denturist, and the rest of the friendly and professional staff at Cain Denture Centers, to provide you with only the latest and best dentures available today.