Did George Washington Have Wooden Teeth?




Myth. George Washington had many problems with his teeth while growing up. He suffered from many painful toothaches, decay and severe tooth loss. Most common problems were likely due to poor diet, lack of resources and know-how to clean them properly, and plain old genetics. Toothpaste was not invented like we use today, so cleaning them with chalk, coal, pine or even cedar sticks was not uncommon. The poor guy had his teeth extracted one by one, and had an okay partial denture made by Dr. Baker, comprised of ivory wired to his own teeth, until a single natural tooth remained. 

Finally, in 1789, a fine New York dentist named Dr. John Greenwood designed a state-of-the-art set of dentures made of hand carved hippopotamus ivory, cow’s teeth and an empty hole for his last remaining human tooth, embedded in a lead base. Dr. Greenwood believed any good tooth should stay, and so it was secured using gold wire springs and brass screws.

Although, this was considered the best in advanced dentistry, it wasn’t the most comfortable for George. He couldn’t eat very well and the dentures gave his face an odd expression, changing his facial characteristics. Washington claimed that the dentures “made it uneasy” and that his “bottom lip would bulge out”, as commonly seen in his portraits. His teeth are on display at the Mount Vernon Museum.