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Dentures

Dentures
Lead base, fitted with human teeth, as well as teeth cared from cow teeth and elephan ...
Dentures
Dentures
Lead base, fitted with human teeth, as well as teeth cared from cow teeth and elephan ...
Dentures Lead base, fitted with human teeth, as well as teeth cared from cow teeth and elephant ivory, brass wires, steel springs
Status
On view
Label Text

George Washington experienced problems with his teeth throughout his adult life. Although he regularly used dental powders and a toothbrush similar to our own his tooth loss persisted. By time he took the oath of office as president at age 57, he was wearing full dentures. Washington's dentures represented the latest advancements in dental technology. Contrary to popular myth, his false teeth were not made of wood but of human and cow teeth as well as elephant and walrus ivory. They required frequent adjusting to function naturally and he repeatedly sent them to John Greenwood, his dentist in New York City, for repairs. For a person as conscious of his appearance as Washington, his dental dilemma caused him great discomfort.

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Date1790-1799
Geography Made - United States
DimensionsOverall: 1 1/4 in. x 2 3/4 in., 0.25 lb. (3.18 cm x 6.99 cm, 0.11 kg) Overall (Closed): 1 3/4 in. x 2 3/4 in. x 1 3/4 in., 0.25 lb. (4.45 cm x 6.99 cm x 4.45 cm, 0.11 kg)
Credit LinePurchase, 1949
Object numberW-1520/A
DescriptionFull set of dentures. Upper and lower plates with lead bases connected by silver alloy springs. Teeth are fixed to the plates by a connecting metal rod.
Published ReferencesRees, James C. Treasures from Mount Vernon: George Washington Revealed (Mount Vernon, VA: MVLA, 1999), p. 23.

Sognnaes, Dr. Reidar F. "George Washington's Bite," Journal of the California Dental Association 4, no. 6 (June 1976): 36-40.

Sognnaes, Dr. Reidar F. "Dental 'Fingerprints' of Some Famous and Infamous People," Proceedings of the 30th Annual Meeting of the American Institute of Oral Biology, November 16-20, 1973, The Spa Hotel, Palm Springs, CA

Sognnaes, Dr. Reidar F. "America's Most Famous Teeth," Smithsonian Magazine 3, no. 11 (February 1973): 47- (incomplete copy in file).

Gibbs, Margaret, "What Happened To Washington's Teeth?", The Reporter, March 5, 1959, pp. 36-7. Deals with claims of seeing dentures on display, which apparently was something of an urban legend in the early 20th century. April 2 issue includes letters in response to article with one by Charles C. Wall proclaiming that "We believe that public display outside the confines of a medical museum would constitute an impropriety. Our policy in this instance derives from canons of taste which have governed this Association in its activities over a period of one hundred years."

Weinberger, Dr. Bernhard W. Introduction to the History of Dentistry, Vol. II (St. Louis: Mosby Co., 1948), p. 319, fig. 120. Dr. Weinberger suggests Charles Willson Peale fabricated them.

"Dentures," The New Yorker, February 23, 1935

Weinberger, Dr. Bernhard W. "George Washington's Dentures," Dental Survey (February 1934), pp. 28-9, fig. 4.
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