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George Washington’s False Teeth

George Washington’s dentures were not wooden.

Most people know that our first president had false teeth. I suspect that few people are aware that George Washington was plagued with toothaches most of his adult life. His diaries contain multiple references to dental pain, and this may have contributed to his wellknown quick temper. George Washington lost his teeth from periodontal or gum disease. At the time of his inauguration as president, he had only one tooth left. Washington was treated by no fewer than eight prominent dentists who practiced in colonial America, but his favorite was John Greenwood.

Washington had frequent dental problems during his tenure as a general commanding the Continental army. A famous painting of Washington in 1779 shows a scar on his left cheek, believed to be the result of a badly abscessed tooth. One correspondence from Washington to a dentist in 1783 was a request for material to take an impression of his mouth. He would then send the impression back to the dentist for a denture to be made.

Dentist John Greenwood made several sets of dentures for Washington. Despite popular belief, Washington never had wooden dentures. His dentures were made from gold, elephant ivory, hippopotamus tusk, and human teeth. Modern dentures are usually made out of acrylic and porcelain in some cases.

On a humorous note, it appears that Washington complained to Greenwood about discoloring of his dentures. Greenwood suggested that Washington not soak his dentures in Port wine or drink it wearing the dentures. Washington should take the dentures out and soak them in water and clean them with a brush. This advice is not off the mark, even by today's standards. Of course today we have stronger cleansing agents that can remove denture stains, newer denture brushes, and denture teeth that are more stain resistant. Even so, it appears that our first president's dentist did an admirable job despite the limitations of dentistry at that time.

Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.

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