The Truth Behind Washington’s Teeth

George Washington's Teeth

The Yuba City Dentistry Group maintains a comprehensive understanding of dentistry so we can provide you with the best care. This includes an accurate knowledge about the history of dentistry. A favorite story from dental lore involves the first president of the United States, George Washington.

A Quick Washington History

Other than the cherry tree incident, the most enduring bit of “fake news” about George Washington is that he had wooden teeth. Although President Washington did indeed wear dentures and false teeth, history shows they were never made of wood.

Since the age of 24, George Washington began having his teeth pulled to alleviate chronic pain. For the next few years, he wore a variety of false teeth and dentures – often wired to his remaining teeth. By his inaugural address in 1789, he had only one original tooth left. Later that year, the final tooth was pulled by Dr. John Greenwood (Washington allowed him to keep the tooth as a memento).

Enter the Wooden Denture Myth

From that point on, President Washington used some of the highest quality and technologically advanced dental prosthetics available at the time. When writing about the president, however, many scholars reported his teeth as being made of wood. Based on those reports, the word spread. But their reports were based on appearance, not composition. The most accepted explanation today is that the ivory used in the dentures became stained from dark wine and other drinks. This would have given the president’s dentures a grained, wooden look. One smile to the paparazzi of the time, and the rest became history.

Elements of Truth in the Washington Myth

The president’s series of false teeth and dentures used a variety of components – including ivory, gold, lead, and other metals. The teeth themselves were sometimes human teeth (including his own), and sometimes even animal teeth, but never wood. Though modern and advanced, his dentures did not fit very well. They included springs to help keep them pressed against his gumlines, so he had to clench his mouth to keep it from springing open. This resulted in the strong, determined look we see in many of his portraits. But if you look closely at some of the paintings, you might notice his lips appear to bulge outward from the improper fit of his dentures.

The last surviving complete set of President Washington’s dentures is preserved in a collection at Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. Their website has fascinating information about the president, his dental issues – and how those issues affected American history.

Following Washington’s example of using the most advanced technology available, the Yuba City Dentistry Group offers the latest options in dentures, dental implants, crowns, and bridges. We also keep up to date with the latest techniques and equipment to ensure your teeth stay healthy and intact. Would you like to know more? Feel free to give our Yuba City dentist a call or schedule an appointment.

Yuba City Dentistry
ernst@gfxservices.com
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