People have been worried about their lost teeth ever since they figured out how to recognize their own reflections. As a result, archaeologists have found many examples of primitive attempts to replace lost teeth with artificial restorations. While modern dentures are incredibly comfortable and lifelike, their ancient predecessors took quite a bit of trial and error to get to that point. Here’s a brief history of the evolution of dentures to help you appreciate just how advanced today’s restorations really are.
The Era of Dentures Dawns
The earliest known predecessors of modern dentures were found in northern Italy. Around 700 BC, the Etruscans in that area constructed false teeth out of gold wire and teeth taken from humans or animals. Since these primitive restorations were probably incapable of withstanding the forces exerted during the chewing process, they were most likely used for purely cosmetic purposes. Similar dentures have been unearthed at dig sites in Egypt and Mexico.
In ancient Mexico, indigenous tribes would use wolf teeth to replace missing teeth, and they would often do so by simply inserting the replacement tooth into the patient’s empty socket. The ancient Mayans would do the same thing with carved stones, pieces of bone, or seashells. In some cases, the false teeth would fuse with the patient’s jawbone and serve as effective restorations.
Sugar consumption skyrocketed in Europe during the colonial era, and this led to many people losing most of their teeth by the age of fifty. As the need for replacement teeth increased, many sets of false teeth were made from specimens taken from the dead of Europe’s many battlefields. In other cases, human teeth were taken from executed criminals or bought from the desperately poor.
The Rise of Modern Dentures
While the first porcelain false teeth were created in 1774 by a British physician, the first modern set of dentures was manufactured by a silversmith in 1820. He carefully mounted porcelain teeth onto gold plates using springs and swivels, which allowed the teeth to move and work in a much more natural manner. However, this design was prohibitively expensive for most people.
In the mid-1800s, the Goodyear family invented an alternative design made from hardened rubber. This cheaper material could be molded to the gums of individual patients, allowing dentures to fit more comfortably and securely.
In the 20th century, acrylic resin became the standard material for dentures, allowing them to appear more lifelike than ever before. Today, people with dentures often forget they are wearing them because they are so comfortable, and since their false teeth are so lifelike, most people they meet cannot tell that they are wearing them either.
About the Author
Dr. Dan Passidomo earned his dental doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry in 1993 and continues to further his education in fields like occlusion, periodontics, and restorative dentistry. He proudly serves as a member of the Dayton Dental Society, the Ohio Dental Society, and the American Dental Association. His office in Centerville, OH offers preventive, cosmetic, emergency, and restorative dentistry in addition to denture services. For more information on proper denture care, contact his office online or dial (937) 886-9935.