The History of False Teeth
If you grew up in America, you've probably heard that George Washington had wooden teeth, and that they made him miserable. If that story is true [we'll look into it later], it seems as if the future First President of the United States may have suffered from a poor choice of dentists, as well as poor dental hygiene.
There was really no excuse for Washington's dentures to be poorly made; false teeth are known to have existed as early as 700 BC. We can thank the Etruscans for the innovation of artificial choppers. They used ivory and bone replicas, which were then attached to the patient's mouth with gold bridgework.
By Washington's time, dentures were hand-carved, and held in place by silk threads, a gentler and less-expensive means of support than gold. The downside of this method, however, was that those unfortunates who had both upper and lower plates had to remove them before eating [Talk about gumming your food!].
The next big "innovation" was the use of silver springs to hold dentures in place. If the fake teeth were not fitted correctly, they had an unfortunate tendency to pop out of the mouth! It's believed that Washington's dentures were made with the unwanted "ejector" feature. They probably weren't made of wood; popular materials in those days included ivory, silver, and mother-of-pearl.
AS you can probably guess, proper fitting of these early devices was vital; sadly, the needed technology hadn't yet been invented. Plaster modeling of the mouth wasn't even invented until about 1745. Porcelain teeth were first crafted around 1820; they fit better, and looked more natural than other artificial teeth. But they were incredibly heavy!
As more modern materials entered the picture, dentures became lighter, more durable, and more life-like. With the perfection of fitting techniques, they became more comfortable. With the introduction of adhesives like Poly-Grip, they stopped falling out of people's mouths. If the Father of Our Country were alive today, he would be wearing dentures more comfortable, more life-like, and more secure than he could have ever imagined. He would also be notable for his incredible age, but that's another story.