Did George Washington really have wooden dentures?

Columbia Dentistry

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England, an event that eventually led to the formation of the United States. Each year on July 4th, also known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate this historic event.

And presidents have been an important part of our democracy ever since the first election in 1789. This July 4th holiday, while celebrating your independence, you can impress your friends and family with these four little-known presidential teeth facts.

The Facts

Columbia Dentistry1. The truth about George Washington’s teeth: In spite of the myths and old wives’ tales, you probably know that George Washington didn’t really have wooden dentures. Throughout his life Washington employed numerous full and partial dentures that were constructed of materials including human, and probably cow and horse teeth, ivory (possibly elephant), lead-tin alloy, copper alloy (possibly brass), and silver alloy.  But did you know the first president performed his own teeth extractions? Ouch…do not try that at home!

Columbia Dentistry2. Brush twice a day and think of me: Presidents often express their friendship and respect with others using gifts. Friends of Lyndon B. Johnson are known to have received electronic toothbrushes, with the Presidential Seal on it. Why toothbrushes? “I want people to think of me right away when they wake up and right before they go to bed,” said Johnson.

Columbia Dentistry3. Ask what your teeth can do for you: You should never use your teeth as tools, but in this case, it was acceptable. John F. Kennedy’s first mission during WWII did not go so well. While on patrol in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, his boat was destroyed. One of his crewmen was badly injured and unable to swim. With heroic effort, JFK swam for five hours towing the crewman to safety, using only his teeth.


Columbia Dentistry4. Close to home and work: It’s convenient to have your dental office located near your home or office, but how about near both places? In the early 1930s, President Herbert Hoover set up the first dental office within the White House. Located in the subbasement, the simple office was used for quick and private presidential dental work and was little more than a dentist chair. Today it is as modern as any other dental office.

Happy Independence Day!

We hope you have a safe and fun-filled Fourth of July.  We look forward to hearing all about it at your next appointment!

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