Dentures have come a long way since they were first invented, and the image many people have of dentures as big, clunky and painful is outdated. Everyone has heard of George Washington and his wooden and ivory false teeth that were uncomfortable and unpleasant, but this is not an accurate picture of dentures anymore.
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The reality is that even the misery of George Washington’s wooden teeth has been exaggerated over the years. False teeth have been around since at least about 700 B.C., invented by the Etruscans who used bone and ivory to create the teeth, then attached them using golden bridgework.
By the time Washington came around, dentures tended to be hand-carved and held in place using silk. They looked just fine, but they were not sturdy enough for eating. Consequently, people had to remove them during meal time.
A later innovation was to use small silver springs to keep the dentures in place. Washington’s dentures used this method. However, the one drawback was that if the teeth were not well-fitted into the mouth, they could accidentally eject themselves.
Despite the legend, Washington’s teeth were not made of wood at all, but a combination of ivory, silver and mother-of-pearl, as all dentures were in those days. Eventually, in the 19th century, people began to use porcelain teeth, which looked and fit better and had a more natural appearance. They were, however, quite heavy.
The 20th century saw many innovations and improvements to the design of dentures. They were made of lighter materials, and they became more durable. The appearance became more natural, as false teeth began to look more and more like real teeth.
Fitting techniques improved vastly, so that dentures have become much more comfortable in the mouth. Because they can be customized so perfectly to each individual’s mouth shape, they also fit much more snugly, and there is no longer any fear of teeth being