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New Haven Dental Group Blog

Dentures Through the Centuries: A Brief History

December 9, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — newhavendental @ 4:26 pm
Senior woman benefitting from modern evolution of dentures

If you have dentures, you might have been surprised at their comfortable and natural appearance when you first got them. Indeed, modern dental prosthetics are beautiful, easy to wear, and highly functional. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case. Our ancestors went through a lot of trial and error before the advent of the replacement teeth that are so widely available today. In this blog post, we will take a brief look at the fascinating evolution of dentures.

The Earliest Dentures

Researchers have found evidence of dentures that stretches back to around 700 BCE, when the inhabitants of northern Italy used human or animal teeth tied together with gold wire. These dentures were probably more for aesthetic purposes than for anything else because they were unlikely to stand up to much wear and tear.

The ancient Mayans used different materials to replace their teeth. They would insert carved bone, seashells, or even stones into the sockets of missing teeth. Surprisingly, such materials actually fused with the surrounding bone.

Wooden Dentures

There is a famous rumor that says George Washington had a set of wooden teeth. While it is true that he had some dental health problems and did use prosthetic teeth, there is no evidence to show that he ever had wooden teeth. His dentures were made of ivory and other materials. However, wooden dentures were used in Japan from the 16th century until the 19th century. The Japanese even used beeswax to create a rudimentary impression of the patient’s gums before they designed the dentures.

Waterloo Teeth

The history of dentures took a gruesome turn in the 1800s, when the teeth of dead soldiers were commonly used and even seen as a status symbol among the rich. Such teeth are often called Waterloo teeth, but the practice of taking teeth from fallen soldiers actually began before the famous battle for which they are named. The teeth of executed criminals, as well as from poor individuals who were desperate for money, were also commonly used in 19th century Europe.

The Beginning of Modern Dentures

Porcelain dentures were introduced in the 1700s, but without modern firing techniques, they tended to chip easily. They were also quite expensive. In the mid-1800s, dentures with a vulcanite (a form of hardened rubber) base became popular. Vulcanite dentures were popular until the 20th century, when dentures with an acrylic resin base overtook the market.

Today’s Dentures

Today, most dentures in New Haven and throughout the world have an acrylic base and teeth that are made out of porcelain or acrylic. They tend to be sturdy, natural-looking, and long-lasting. We certainly have reason to be grateful that dentures have come so far from where they first started!

Meet the Practice

The four dentists at New Haven Dental Group take pride in offering high-quality prosthetics made with advanced technology. Full dentures, partial dentures, and implant-supported dentures are among the many services our practice is proud to offer. If you would like to learn more about your tooth replacement options, contact us at 203-941-6619. 

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New Haven Dental Group is a 42 North Dental Care, PLLC practice and is owned and operated by dentists Dr. Samuel Shames, DDM. and Dr. Ronald Weissman, DDM. Gentle Dental is supported by 42 North Dental, LLC, a dental support organization that provides non-clinical administrative and business support services to the practice. 42 North Dental, LLC does not own or operate the dental practice or employ dentists to provide dental services. Find more information about 42 North Dental, LLC and the dental practices it supports at 42northdental.com.

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