Did George Washington really have wooden teeth?

Q: Did George Washington really have false teeth made of wood?
A: While it is widely believed that George Washington had false teeth made of wood, this is just another one of the many myths associated with America’s first president. George Washington had at least six sets of false teeth throughout his life, and none of them were made of wood. But some of Washington’s teeth were made of things even stranger than wood!

According to John Adams, Washington loved nuts and he regularly shelled Brazil nuts with his teeth. This would’ve been very damaging to Washington’s teeth, and Washington began losing teeth when he was still a relatively young man. By the time he became president, Washington only had one natural tooth left.

Historians believe that Washington probably had the teeth of slaves transplanted into his mouth, a relatively common practice of the time. But these transplants wouldn’t have lasted long, so Washington eventually used sets of false teeth. Over the years these sets included hippo ivory, donkey teeth and even some of Washington’s own teeth, but they never fit quite right and they often made Washington ill. Some historians have conjectured that these false teeth were responsible for the unsmiling, somewhat puffy face seen in Washington’s portraits.

Fortunately dentistry has progressed quite a bit since Washington’s time. If Washington were alive today, he could keep his teeth throughout his life by brushing and flossing every day and visiting his dentist for regular check-ups. And if Washington’s own teeth couldn’t be saved for some reason, he would have access to false teeth made of acrylic and other modern materials, as well as permanent dental implants. And of course, he could save himself a whole lot of trouble by buying his nuts pre-shelled!

Dr. Natalie Khadavi
sees patients in the Los Angeles area. Visit our website or give us a call at (310) 482-3971 for more information about how we can provide you and your family with healthy smiles that last a lifetime.

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