On February 22, 1732, our nation’s first president was born. George Washington accomplished an awful lot in his life, but through all of that, there is still something so curious about him: what was up with his teeth?

You’ve likely heard that George Washington’s teeth were made of wood. How true is that, and what do we know about his dental health? In today’s blog, your dentists in Lake Villa, IL, are taking a deeper look at the mystery behind George Washington’s alleged “wooden” teeth. Keep reading to learn more!

The Truth Behind Washington’s Teeth

While it is true that Washington had a full set of false teeth, they were never made out of wood. George Washington had notoriously bad teeth, having his first tooth pulled at the age of 24 in 1756, and losing his final tooth in 1789 — the year he was inaugurated as president. The wooden tooth myth could stem from the (also false) story of a young George Washington cutting down a cherry tree, somehow acquainting the first president with trees and wood. But likely, it is the result of the fact that, like most dentures at the time, his became stained and took on the yellowish-brownish hue of wood.

So, if not wood, then what? Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home which now functions as a museum, actually has one full set of dentures that belonged to Washington. The false teeth in this contraption came from several sources. Some were made of ivory from elephant tusks, and others from animal teeth that were filed down to somewhat resemble human teeth.

How Did Colonial Dentures Work?

If you’ve looked at portraits of Washington, you’ve likely seen a stern-faced general with a stiff upper lip, a personality that oozed power and poise. In reality, his surly demeanor was a result not of what was in his heart, but in his mouth.

These days, dentures are considered a suitable alternative to replace missing teeth, but not quite as comfortable as dental implants. However, we’re sure that dentures today would feel like a cloud compared to what Washington had in his mouth.

Colonial dentures had a lead framework that could not be molded to the specific shape of a patient’s mouth. The top and bottom dentures were connected by a tight metal spring where the joint of the jaw would be. The pressure of the spring made the dentures naturally want to push open. Rather than using adhesive like we do today to secure dentures to the gums, the dentures would stay in place simply due to the force of the spring. However, this contraption meant that when not speaking, Washington would need to be constantly clenching his jaw, which is why he looks so stern-lipped in all of his portraits.

Be Comfortable In Your Teeth

Based on personal writings and what we know from history, George Washington spent much of his life in pain due to his oral health problems. Here at Lake Villa Dental, that is the last thing we ever want for our patients. It is important to know that you have so many options for handling minor or severe dental problems. All you have to do is make a phone call and we’ll provide you with the best solution for whatever you are experiencing.

If you are experiencing tooth pain, give us a call. In our modern world, whether you need full or partial dentures, dental implants or bridges, there are pain-free, natural-looking dental solutions available to you. Your artificial teeth will look natural, feel comfortable, and allow you to continue living life as usual.

If you are looking for dentures in Lake Villa, Illinois or want to discuss more options, schedule an appointment for a dental checkup today.