Monday, July 4, 2016

George Washington's Teeth

It's Independence Day -- today we pay tribute to our beautiful country and those who bravely fought for our freedom, including George Washington, our country's first president.

 Washington suffered from dental problems most of his life and many people think he wore dentures made of wooden teeth. A few years ago, Dr. Troy Aland of Aland Family Dentistry visited George Washington's Mount Vernon on a family trip, and learned the truth about this myth.

Washington's teeth were NOT made of wood, but rather a combination of horse, cow, and human teeth, as well as hippopotamus ivory. Washington recorded in multiple journal entries about jaw pain, toothaches, inflamed gums, and other dental problems. During the Revolutionary War, he sought the care of a French dentist to care for his dental issues, and they continued to remain close after the war.

According to journal entries, Washington had his first tooth extracted at the age of 24. By the time he was inaugurated President of the United States in 1789, he only had one working tooth remaining. He kept some of his teeth and later used them in denture fittings. He bought human teeth from African-Americans, a common practice in the 1700's, but it is unclear if these teeth were used in his dentures.
George Washington's dentures on display at Mount Vernon.
Photo Cred: Dr. Troy Aland

Over the years, the shape of Washington's face changed due to his dental problems. His lips bulged out, making them appear swollen. His jaw and mouth appeared augmented. Washington was self conscious of his appearance, and toward the end of his presidency he spoke less in public because his dentures made it increasingly difficult to speak.

Martha Washington also wore dentures, though she was not plagued with as many dental problems as her husband. She encouraged her children and grandchildren to take good care of their teeth so they wouldn't have to deal with the discomforts she and George Washington did.

Technological advancements in the field of dentistry have drastically improved the aesthetic issues caused by poor oral health. If George Washington were a patient at our dental office, Dr. Aland would give him a bright, sparkling new smile using dental implants. It's amazing how much has changed in the 200 + years since Washington was alive.

Get out and enjoy your favorite summer foods, play on your day off, and have a wonderful Fourth of July!!

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