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Friday, June 29, 2012

Denture Dilemmas from a Founding Father

The legendary pouty expression is rumored to depict
Washington trying to keep his dentures in place.
Though simple, springs have served a variety of amazing function since their development in the Bronze Age. Commonly overlooked, springs have played a crucial role in military victories and industry innovation, but few spring uses could be quite as odd as the following: the springs in George Washington's dentures. American's first president, famous general, and Founding Father, George Washington is known for many things; but good oral hygiene was not one of them. Rumored to this day to have worn wooden teeth, this bit of information is not entirely accurate, but George Washington's dentures did help revolutionize the field of prosthetic dentistry forever. Starting to lose his teeth in his early 20s, the Founding Father only had one tooth of his own left in his mouth by the time he uttered his presidential inaugural address; which its brief nature is rumored to be because of the immense pain brought upon by his poor dental health. 

Over the years, various dentists of the day hand-crafted dentures for Washington. Many of these dentures were either carved from hippo ivory or made from cow teeth bonded on a gold, bronze, or even lead base. Because denture adhesives were not yet used to bond dentures to the inside of the mouth, dentures were kept in place by the use of bent springs on the corners of the teeth which pushed the false teeth into the roof of the wearer's mouth and lower jaw. This allowed for somewhat natural chewing, but made his mouth appear bulky when closed and at times, very uncomfortable. Had George relaxed his jaw, the dentures springs may have popped out and gotten drool all over the Constitution! Without springs, the dentures would have had no way of staying in place. 







The above pictured is a replica set of George Washington's dentures. For a set of his real dentures on display, click here. For more information on everything springs, check out Oklahoma's spring experts at EBSCO Spring Company

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