How Cosmetic Dentistry Would Have Changed Mr. Washington’s Life

men in dentist chair having his teeth looked at by a dentistEveryone has heard the false tale of our first president and his wooden teeth. Of course it did not happen that way. Cosmetic dentistry as we know it might not have been invented, but people had been dealing with dental issues a long time!

He did however, only have one of his own teeth by the time he was sworn in as the first president of the United States! Like many others of his time, bad diet, disease and genetics were responsible for the pain and suffering George endured his whole adult life.

Prior to the revolutionary war, the best in cosmetic dentistry fashioned a denture for the future Commander-in-Chief out of ivory that was wired to his few remaining teeth. Imagine going through that without anesthetic!

Then in the 1780’s during the war, a French dentist – Jean-Pierre Le Mayeur – who later became friends with the future president, probably fashioned him a better set of dentures.

At Washington’s inauguration as President of the United States in 1789, only one real tooth remained in his mouth.  A New York dentist who was a former soldier, now a pioneer in dentistry, Dr. John Greenwood fabricated an advanced set of dentures (for that time of course) for Mr. Washington.

These dentures were made from hippopotamus ivory and used gold wire springs and brass screws to hold human teeth. Imagine wearing dentures with other people’s teeth in them!

Since Washington still had one tooth left, the good dentist left a space in the dentures as he believed a dentist should never extract a good tooth!  By the way, Washington later gave his last lost tooth to the good doctor who in turn saved the tooth in a special case and it is now owned by the New York Academy of Medicine!

Dr. Abeyta sure could have helped the President a lot. She would have taken steps to solve his complaints about even the most advanced dentures of the day as they “are both uneasy in the mouth and bulge my lips out” and that the teeth “have, by degrees, worked loose.

We can all be very thankful for the advances in cosmetic dentistry!