Dentures have been part of society for much longer than you would imagine. They’ve actually been around nearly as long as civilization has. We’ve used our ingenuity to make new ways to replace our teeth for centuries, and each culture has created new and different ways unique to them.
Primitive dentures from 1500 B.C. Egypt have been discovered, made from human teeth threaded with gold wire. Italians in 8th century B.C. used the same construction with animal teeth in addition to human. Ancient Mayans carved teeth from bone, stone, and seashell and inserted them directly into the socket of a missing tooth. This apparently worked better than it sounds, as the false teeth fused with the bone they were inserted into.
As time went on and civilization began to approach modernity, dentures came to be made from bone, ivory, and eventually porcelain. Everybody has heard about George Washington’s wooden dentures, but that isn’t actually true. Washington was wealthy enough to sport some of the highest quality dentures of the time, carved from hippopotamus ivory and inserted with human, horse, and donkey teeth.
In 1774, a man called Alexis Duchateau created the first dentures made from porcelain. Unfortunately, they were not all that durable and chipped a lot, and also looked too white to be natural teeth, so they never caught on. Instead, dentures made from actual teeth, called “Waterloo teeth” after the practice of pulling the teeth from dead soldiers, were the height of denture technology.
A leap forward was made in 1820 when a goldsmith named Claudius Ash in Westminster, England, made dentures from porcelain mounted on gold plates. These dentures were superior in every way over the previous models. Constantly looking for new ways to improve the dentures, Ash made dentures from Vulcanite rubber in 1850, and from that time forward that was the standard for dentures until the 20th century, when acrylic resin and other plastics became the preferred materials for crafting dentures.
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