Our first President, George Washington’s, birthday falls on the 22nd of February. However, we honor this great man every year on the 3rd Monday of February by celebrating President’s Day. On this day, we get to hear about President Washington’s life, his heroics, and some quirks to boot!
For instance, did you know that he had trouble managing his dentures? Some even believe that he had wooden teeth. Well, a bit of history would be relevant at this time to clear the myth.
The ‘Oral’ Truth on the dentures used by the President
Genetic factors, and an imbalanced diet, resulted in Washington having very poor dental health. By the time Washington was inaugurated President in 1789, there was only one real tooth left in his mouth!
- Dr. John Baker was the first dentist to create false teeth for Washington. It was a partial denture made with ivory, which was wired to the remaining real teeth.
- Jean-Pierre Le Mayeur, a French dentist, is considered to have fitted partial false teeth for Washington, during the 1780’s.
- In 1789, Dr. John Greenwood, a pioneer of dentistry in America, fashioned a set of dentures for Washington before his inauguration. The dentures he made were technologically advanced, carved from hippopotamus ivory, and used brass screws and gold wire springs. The dentures even had a hole, to accommodate the single real tooth left in the President’s mouth.
Washington used many dentures and dental tools during his lifetime, all of which couldn’t cure the pain. His constant oral problem is believed to be the reason behind his famous, short temperament. Using the dentures even caused facial disfigurement like bulged-out lips and loose tooth. The ivory dentures were hard to maintain as they got stained very frequently.
Some of the dentures used by Washington still exist today. A part of the ivory denture, made by Dr. Greenwood, is kept in the New York Academy of Medicine. Another set is preserved at the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.
Let the story of the dentures used by the President be a reminder for all of us to maintain proper oral hygiene, and pay a visit to the dentist twice a year. In the meantime, Happy President’s Day to all!