George Washington's Dental History
Have you heard the stories of George Washington's wooden teeth? Did you know that this story is actually a myth? We thought it would be fun to celebrate Independence Day by sharing some interesting facts about George Washington's dental work.
"Washington had a long history of illness. In 1751 he wrote of having smallpox and the following year complained that he had a bout of "violent plurise." As a young lieutenant colonel in 1755 serving with General Braddock in the French and Indian War, he suffered "pain in the head" and dysentery. In 1761 when he was twenty-nine and back at Mt. Vernon, he got "breakbone fever," now known as dengue fever, characterized by headache, fever, and severe muscles and joint pain. Over the ensuing years there were attacks of malaria, flu, and rheumatic complaints. Adding to the stress as commander of the continental Army were constant unrelieved toothaches. In some instances, one cannot help but wonder if his teeth might have been the source of the chronic infections he suffered"
"According to his accounts, he received the standard medical treatments of the day, which included heavy doses of the infamous calomel (mercurous chloride) that can lead to destruction of the teeth. This, combined with what may have been naturally poor teeth, led to dental problems beginning when Washington was twenty-two. Over the next thirty-five years, he would lose all his teeth."
During this time, tooth powders (since they didn't have toothpaste) were made from pumice, borax, roots and herbs, even burnt bread and tobacco were sometimes used. It was likely that people used a mouth rinse solution that contained herbs or resins of balsam or myrrh, salt, wine, or even vinegar may have been used.
Tooth extractions became a yearly occurrence for our founding father. "There were frequent episodes of infected and abscessed teeth, inflamed gums, and finally ill-fitting dentures." George Washington didn't have wooden teeth, but he did have several sets of dentures throughout his life. His first set came shortly after he was inaugurated for his first term as president in 1789. It was made of hippopotamus ivory carved to fit the gums, ivory teeth, and also human teeth. In 1791 he received his second set of dentures and then a third set in 1795. Another large set of dentures was made for him in 1796. "His final set was made in 1798, the year before he died. This set was a swagged gold plate with individual backing for each tooth which was fastened by rivets. The lower denture of this set, along with others, are on display in the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore."
Here at Davis Dental we are grateful for modern dentistry and to be able to share that with our outstanding patients. Happy Independence Day!
To learn more about Davis Dental visit davisdentalutah.com or call us at (801)292-5812
Information gathered from americanrevolution.org