The Evolution of Dentures

The First Dentures

Dentures trace their roots back to around 700 BC when the Etruscans of ancient, northern Italy made the first false teeth out of human or animal teeth tied together with gold wires.  The materials they used were not likely to stand up to the pressure placed on teeth during eating and were probably made for cosmetic purposes. Examples of such dentures have also been found in Egyptian and Mexican archeological sites. Indigenous tribes in Mexico replaced their missing teeth with wolf teeth. The tooth was simply inserted into the space where the natural tooth was once located. Ancient Mayans replaced missing teeth with carved stones, bits of bone or even seashells. The process worked surprisingly well, these materials would fuse with the patient’s jawbone for a permanent fix.

The earliest surviving set of complete dentures was actually made out of wood. They were found in Japan and date back to the 16th century. This style of denture was used up until the 19th century.

George Washington’s Dentures

Contrary to the popular myth, George Washington didn’t wear wooden dentures. He actually wore ivory dentures which were comprised of a carved hippopotamus ivory plate into which human teeth – along with parts of both horse and donkey teeth – were placed. Hippopotamus, walrus and elephant ivory were carved into dentures to replace full sets of teeth. Over time, ivory became stained and gave off a foul smell and were uncomfortable to wear. Regardless of this, these types of dentures were still being worn in the early 1800s and were only an option for the wealthy as they were expensive to make.

Dentures in the 1800s

As sugar consumption skyrocketed in Europe, especially in England, many people by the age of 50 lost most of their teeth and needed a way to replace them. One major source of teeth in the early 1800s was the dead on the battlefields of Europe. These teeth were in high demand and actually became a status symbol among the elite. Many teeth were removed for this reason following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 dentures that included human teeth became known as ‘Waterloo teeth’. In addition to Waterloo teeth, human teeth were extracted from executed criminals, or even sold by poor people who were desperate to make some money.

Porcelain Dentures

The first pair of porcelain dentures were developed in 1774 by a British physician.  Porcelain teeth looked unnaturally white, and they chipped very easily. In 1820, a silversmith mounted porcelain teeth onto gold plates with springs and swivels, which allowed the teeth to work more efficiently and naturally. In effect, this was the first modern set of dentures.

Modern Dentures

Porcelain was very expensive, and most people could not afford to wear this type of denture. An alternative made from hardened rubber, vulcanite, was created in the mid-1800s. It was invented and developed by the Goodyear family. This provided an ideal base for dentures and was cheaper than gold bases, making them more affordable. Vulcanite could be moulded to fit a person’s gums and hardened in the same shape to provide a good fit.

 This type of denture became very popular and widely utilized by people from all walks of life until the 20th century when acrylic resin became the norm.

The Beginning of Dental Implants

While dentures are still widely used, dental implants are becoming a favored way to replace a missing tooth. Implant technology began in the 1950s when a Swedish orthopedic surgeon realized that bone would fuse to titanium rods, creating a virtually unbreakable bond. Today’s dental implants have come a long way since then, but the technology is vastly different from tooth replacement methods of the past.

While it’s true that wooden teeth, false teeth, and dentures have been a part of the human experience for millennia, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in your future. Take good care of your teeth now so you can keep your natural teeth well into your golden years.

Tips On How To Keep Your Dentures Clean

  • Remove and rinse dentures after eating. Run water over your dentures to remove food debris and other loose particles. You may want to place a towel on the counter or in the sink or put some water in the sink so the dentures won’t break if you drop them.
  • Handle your dentures carefully. Be sure you don’t bend or damage the plastic or the clasps when cleaning.
  • Clean your mouth after removing your dentures. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush on natural teeth and gauze or a soft toothbrush to clean your tongue, cheeks and roof of your mouth (palate). If used, remove any remaining denture adhesive from your gums.
  • Brush your dentures at least daily. Remove and gently clean your dentures daily. Soak and brush them with a soft-bristled brush and nonabrasive denture cleanser to remove food, plaque and other deposits. If you use denture adhesive, clean the grooves that fit against your gums to remove any remaining adhesive. Don’t use denture cleansers inside your mouth.
  • Soak dentures overnight. Most types of dentures need to stay moist to keep their shape. Place the dentures in water or a mild denture-soaking solution overnight. Check with your dentist about properly storing your dentures overnight. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning and soaking solutions.
  • Rinse dentures thoroughly before putting them back in your mouth, especially if using a denture-soaking solution. These solutions can contain harmful chemicals that cause vomiting, pain or burns if swallowed.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups. Your dentist will recommend how often to visit to have your dentures examined and professionally cleaned. Your dentist can help ensure a proper fit to prevent slippage and discomfort, and also check the inside of your mouth to make sure it’s healthy.
  • See your dentist if you have a loose fit. See your dentist promptly if your dentures become loose. Loose dentures can cause irritation, sores and infection.

You typically should avoid:

  • Abrasive cleaning materials. Avoid stiff-bristled brushes, strong cleansers and harsh toothpaste, as these are too abrasive and can damage your dentures.
  • Whitening toothpastes. Toothpastes advertised as whitening pastes often contain peroxide, which does little to change the color of denture teeth.
  • Bleach-containing products. Don’t use any bleaching products because these can weaken dentures and change their color. Don’t soak dentures with metal attachments in solutions that contain chlorine because it can tarnish and corrode the metal.
  • Hot water. Avoid hot or boiling water that could warp your dentures.

Make an appointment today, and let Riversdale Dental keep your teeth and gums healthy. Contact us to make an appointment with your friendly dentist in Camberwell today.