George Washington’s Troublesome Teeth

Think you have tooth problems? Not compared to our first president George Washington. Washington lived in an era before water fluoridation, dental degrees and painkillers. Toothpastes were rudimentary at best, regular checkups were unheard of and the local doctor was probably your best option for getting a tooth pulled.

George Washington lost his first adult tooth at 22-years-old. By the time of his death at age 67, he didn’t have a single natural tooth left. Contrary to popular belief, however, Washington’s dentures were not made of wood. Laser analysis of his dentures in 2005 revealed that Washington’s false teeth were actually made of a combination of materials including gold, ivory, lead, human and animal teeth.

During his lifetime, Washington had nine different dentists and numerous sets of false teeth. Only one dentist, John Greenwood, was able to make dentures that Washington found comfortable. Over his lifetime, Washington would receive four sets of dentures from Greenwood. The teeth were carved from ivory and sometimes set in gold. Golden springs held the upper and lower teeth together.

By the time that Washington became President in 1789, he had only one natural tooth left. While serving in D.C., Washington was unable to travel to Greenwood’s office in New York and therefore sent his teeth through the mail to be repaired and adjusted. Often times, however, Washington thought he could fix the teeth himself and wrote to Greenwood for suggestions on the tools to use. He once even asked Greenwood for material to make an impression of his mouth for new dentures.

Greenwood’s dentures didn’t solve all of Washington’s dental problems though. For instance, the inaugural address for Washington’s second term was only two paragraphs long—probably as a result of tooth pain that kept him from speaking in long stretches.

Washington was buried in 1799 still wearing Greenwood’s dentures. Today you can see a set of Washington’s teeth at the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore.

Here in 2012, we can be thankful that modern dentistry has made ivory teeth obsolete. However, missing and decayed teeth are still a large problem in our nation. To avoid cavities and other dental problems be sure to brush and floss daily and see your dentist for regular appointments.

If you have missing teeth that you would like to see replaced, Greenspoint Dental offers a number of treatment options including dental implants, dental bridges and dentures (the modern day variety). To fix your smile, contact Greenspoint Dental today.