History of false teeth – from animal teeth to acrylic dentures

History of false teeth

The first false teeth discovered were dated as early as the 7th century.  They were made from human and animal teeth and bound together with a gold band by the Etruscans, the pre Roman civilisation in Italy.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Egyptians in the 1500s mastered the technology of threading teeth on to a gold wire.  However, it is the Japanese that have the oldest claim to dentures. They would carve their false teeth out of wood, a type of denture they continued to use until they were introduced to the western world in the 18th century.

The introduction of sugar to the western world increased the need to develop longer lasting dentures

During the 18th century, sugar was introduced to the western world and tooth decay increased by 500%.  Ivory dentures became more popular as they were more decay resistant.  These were made from walrus, elephant, or hippopotamus tusks.  The most famous person we know that used these types of dentures was George Washington, not the wooden carved dentures we were led to believe he used.

Nicholas Dubois De Chemant patented the first porcelain dentures after stealing the idea from his boss in 1771

Alexis Duchâteau crafted the first porcelain dentures in 1770; however, these where easily chipped.  The first British patent for porcelain dentures was granted to his assistant, Nicholas Dubois De Chemant, who started marketing his product to patients a year later

Dead war hero’s teeth where very popular in the 18th Century

Even with porcelain dentures now available on the market, people during the 18th century still preferred their dentures made from heroes that had died in the Waterloo battle. Dentures made from human teeth were known as ‘Waterloo Teeth’, even though it was never quite clear whose side of the battle your teeth came from.

In 1820, Claudius Ash, a goldsmith, was asked to craft a superior denture made from mounted porcelain on 18-karat gold plates with gold springs.  This was the beginning of the modern dentures.  Claudius Ash’s company was the leading European manufacture of Vulcanite dentures in 1850.

From the 20th century on acrylic, resin and other plastics started getting used. However, today patients prefer dental implants.