Did George Washington Really Have Wooden Teeth?

Post Published on: October 5, 2011 | By Dakota Dental

apple valley dentistryLet’s see what our investigative, myth bustin’ Apple Valley dentists, Dr. Shelley and Dr. Bennett, have determined about this common belief …

Did the father of our country, George Washington, really have wooden teeth?

The Dakota Dental Apple Valley Dentistry myth bustin’ team reports that although it is true that George had lost most of his teeth before he became president due to the poor dental services and dental procedures of that day, it is a “Mouth Myth” that President Washington’s teeth were made of wood.

So, what were Washington’s teeth made of? Here are the “Tooth Truths” of the matter from your Dakota Dental Clinic:

According to a study of Washington’s four known dentures by a forensic anthropologist from the University of Pittsburgh in collaboration with the National Museum of Dentistry and the Smithsonian Museum, George Washington’s dentures were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead and human and animal teeth – including horse and donkey teeth.

Here are a few interesting side notes about President Washington’s false teeth:

George’s dentures were of course made by the most prominent dentist of that time, Dr. John Greenwood and hand carved from the finest hippopotamus ivory and gold available. One of the sets of dentures was actually stolen from the Smithsonian in 1976 from a bicentennial exhibit presumably for its gold content and has never been recovered.

But here’s the most interesting part of the story about George Washington’s teeth …

The upper and lower gold plates of George’s dentures were connected by springs which pushed the plates against the upper and lower ridges of his mouth to keep the dentures fitting snuggly. This means that President Washington had to be very intentional about holding his jaws closed to make his teeth bite together. If Mr. President relaxed his jaw, his mouth would pop open!

It is speculated that this may be part of the reason why President Washington always looks so stern in all of his portraits – he’s trying to hold his mouth shut. (Or perhaps it’s because he was turned down twice in marriage proposals to two different women before the widow, Martha Custis, accepted his proposal!)

Additionally, because the loss of Washington’s original teeth left him with badly sunken cheeks, George stuffed his cheeks with cotton to achieve a healthier look.

Without a doubt, we have much to be thankful for today! The preventative dentistry services, emergency dental services and professional dental procedures provided by Dakota Dental Apple Valley dentistry will help you keep your teeth for a life time – maintaining the comfort of your dental and oral health as well as an attractive appearance.

And fortunately those with dentures don’t have to suffer as ol’ George did! Dakota Dental Family Dentistry provides the professional services to ensure that your dentures fit well, are comfortable and attractive. It’s important to note that a dentist is the only one qualified to provide denture services. Our professional training enables us to evaluate your total oral health and its relationship to general health. In addition to a broad medical background, your Apple Valley dentists, Dr. Shelley and Dr. Bennett, have studied oral anatomy, facial structure, general and oral pathology, psychology and state-of-the-art dental materials (no hippopotamus ivory!)

If you’re ever in Baltimore, you can stop by the Dr. Samuel Harris National Museum of Dentistry to see President Washington’s remaining sets of dentures first hand as well as other fun, interesting dental artifacts.

And about George cutting down that cherry tree … historians say it’s almost certainly untrue but does accurately reflect the traits of our first president whose great place in history and political success was attributed to his great strength of character – certainly not his dazzling, politician smile!