The history of false teeth dates back several centuries. The earliest known variety of false teeth consisted of a combination of human and animal teeth which were created by the Etruscans in 700 BC. The Etruscans were an ancient civilization that lived in Etruria, Italy. Many of their customs were adopted by the Romans. However, the practice of making and using false teeth did not extend past the time of the Etruscans.
As it turns out, the concept of creating false teeth was essentially forgotten until the 18th century. It was in Europe and the popularity of sugar, which resulted in many Europeans losing teeth or suffering from rotting teeth, that the idea of replacing them with false teeth once again became a popular part of the culture of the day. The need for them also resulted in many different materials being used to create dentures.
Not all of them were successful, nor were many of the designs very comfortable to wear for any length of time.
George Washington – An Early Denture Wearer
As part of the history related to when were false teeth invented, the story of the first US President is often included. Typically, when George Washington’s false teeth are discussed, there is always a mention that there were made of wood.
This is not exactly accurate. As it turns out, Washington (1732-1799) had the highest-quality false teeth available for that era. His denture plate was constructed of ivory from a hippopotamus and was fitted with a collection of different teeth. The combination included human, donkey, and horse teeth.
The First Porcelain Dentures
The first set of Porcelain dentures were reported to be invented by French pharmacist Alexis Duchateau in the mid-1700s. It was not until twenty years later when one of Duchateau’s assistants patented the process for making false teeth.
Known as the De Chemist’s Specification, the process utilized springs to hold the teeth in place. The most interesting feature of this manufacturing system was that the false teeth could be made in any color or shade preferred by the wearer. Sales of the product began the following year.
However, due to wear and tear and the fragility of the material, the first porcelain dentures did not last long.
The Creation of Waterloo Teeth
Since candy and other sugar-laden treats continued to gain popularity in Europe, so did all forms of dental disease. The demand for false teeth started to exceed the supply of teeth. At the time, peasants were selling their teeth to earn some money and grave robbers were farming teeth in their own way. There were also teeth coming from the personal collections of various dentists. The false teeth created from these three sources were not of good quality and were only worn for cosmetic reasons.
Then the Battle of Waterloo (1815) happened. Tens of thousands of young, strong, and healthy soldiers died in the war providing what seemed to be an endless supply of good quality teeth for use in the manufacture of dentures. They eventually became known as “Waterloo Teeth” and were considered fashionable in England. For the next hundred years, Waterloo Teeth met the demand.
In the United States, interest in false teeth was cured thanks to the American Civil War providing a new source of Waterloo Teeth.
Then Vulcanite Was Invented
When telling the story of who invented false teeth, you can’t skip over the significance of the invention of a flexible rubber material that was called vulcanite. This material was popular because it could create a comfortable base for false teeth and was affordable. The price point was at the place where the middle class and rich could afford to have dentures.
This was in the 1850s but by the end of the century, an old material that was made new again became a popular solution for false teeth.
Porcelain Comes Around Again
It was in the late 1800s when the technology of the day could create porcelain that was far stronger and smoother than it was a century before.
Porcelain was so popular that it replaced all previous false teeth options including bone, ivory, human or animal teeth. This durable material continues to be used in denture manufacturing today.
Which Brings Us To Today
While we still enjoy sweets, dental care has come a long way since grave robbers and dead soldiers supplied dentists with the teeth, they needed to make dentures. Modern approaches to oral hygiene such as toothpaste and mouthwash, and the concept of regular dental check-ups to fill cavities or remove plaque build-up have gone a long way to preserving teeth instead of removing them and replacing missing teeth with false ones. However, dentures are a way of life for many.
Fortunately, the technology exists today where veneers, bridges, partial plates, and full dentures look natural and are hard to detect. Plus, they are far more comfortable to wear and permit wearers to drink, chew and talk with confidence that a plate will not shift or pop out of their mouth. The best thing about today’s false teeth is that they can restore your smile which comes with the added benefit of building your self-esteem.
Speak to your dentist today to see if you are a good candidate for any of the current false teeth options.
When were false teeth invented? Well, as you can see, it is a very interesting story that dates back several centuries but only took hold in the past couple hundred years.
For many, dentures are a cosmetic requirement replacing teeth lost due to an accident or some other trauma to the jaw or mouth. They are also a perfect replacement for teeth that cannot be repaired any other way.
False teeth have come a long way and still serve a very important purpose. Who would have known that from hippopotamus ivory and used teeth from animals and other humans would lead us to the amazing, natural-looking false teeth of today?