George Washington: Did he really have wooden teeth?

Q: Were George Washington’s false teeth really made out of wood?
A: George Washington had at least six sets of false teeth during his life, and none of them were wooden. But he did wear false teeth, and some of them were actually made of things weirder than wood!

According to John Adams, Washington had a nasty habit of using his teeth to shell Brazil nuts. This did a lot of damage to Washington’s teeth, and he started to lose them when he was still a fairly young man. When he became president, he apparently only had one natural tooth remaining in his mouth.

During Washington’s era it was a relatively common practice for people to have the teeth of slaves transplanted into their mouths, and historians believe that Washington probably did this. But these transplants didn’t last very long, so Washington eventually resorted to sets of false teeth. These sets reportedly included hippo ivory, donkey teeth and even a few of Washington’s own teeth, but they never fit correctly and they caused many problems. Some historians have even suggested that these painful false teeth were responsible for Washington’s famously stern, unsmiling expression in his painted portraits.

Dentistry has improved quite a bit since Washington’s era, and if he was alive today he could keep his teeth throughout his life by brushing and flossing and getting regular check-ups from his dentist. If his own teeth couldn’t be saved for some reason, he could get a set of false teeth made of acrylic and other modern materials, or he could get permanent dental implants.

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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