Growing up, we always heard that George Washington’s teeth were made of wood. However, through science and technology, we learned this was just a myth. In reality, President Washington had several sets of dentures. They were made from ivory, lead, gold, human, and animal teeth.
Washington endured a long history of dental problems and health issues. Researchers theorize that many of his health problems were in direct correlation to his dental issues. According to his accounts, coupled with naturally poor teeth, he received the standard medical treatments of the time, which included heavy doses of mercurous chloride(calomel), which lead to the destruction of his teeth.
President Washington began losing his teeth at the young age of 22. Over the next 35 years, he lost all of his teeth, despite daily brushing and use of mouthwash. The toothpowders used during his lifetime consisted of borax, root, herbs, and even tobacco. Unfortunately, these powders were highly abrasive and destroyed his tooth enamel.
Toothaches and extractions became a yearly occurrence for him. He encountered frequent episodes of infected and abscessed teeth, inflamed gums, and finally, ill-fitted dentures. He continuously corresponded with reputable dentists to repair his dentures or make him an entirely new set.
It is not hard to imagine the discomfort George Washington encountered through the years with his ill-fitting dentures. He had to forgo giving his second inaugural address due to extreme mouth discomfort. Later in life, he could only eat soft foods and found talking, eating, and smiling to give him great pain.
So next time you look at your one dollar bill, realize that he is smiling despite years of extreme pain and discomfort. This adds another dimension of our country’s first president.
Fortunately, you don’t have to experience the poor oral health and tooth loss that our forefathers endured. With modern science, technology, dental materials, medications, education, and the availability of good dental care, Americans are keeping their teeth in good condition for longer than ever – sometimes, for life. If you need a dentist for regular dental checkups, dental reconstruction, or more comfortable dentures, call me, Dr. Corbet Locke, at my Waco dental center. I look forward to giving you a reason to smile!