March 9, 1822: Charles M. Graham of New York City receives the first US patent for artificial teeth. Dentures or false teeth have been around for eons. There is evidence Etruscans in what is today northern Italy made dentures out of human or animal teeth as early as 7000 BC. In June 2006, archeologists in Mexico excavated a skeleton bearing evidence of denture use dating from 4,500 years ago. The front teeth were filed in such a way the scientists surmised ceremonial dentures were used, although they have not been found.
The first modern European dentures still in existence date from the 1400s, but they were probably in use prior to this date. They were carved from bone or ivory and cadaver teeth were used. Some people sold their teeth for profit, as well. The painful contraption was attached to any remaining teeth with a thread made from metal or silk. If carved from ivory, hippopotamus or walrus ivory was used. The dentures, while uncomfortable, also tended to rot after continuous use. By 1770, porcelain dentures were first coming to market.
The first official “Operator of Teeth” in London was Peter de la Roche. Dentists came from the ranks of goldsmiths, ivory turners, and students of barber-surgeons. Porcelain teeth made as singles, doubles or entire rows were easier to attach. They were also more natural in color and didn’t rot. Next came porcelain teeth set in an eighteen carat gold base. By the 1850s Vulcanite, or hardened rubber, was used for the base. The Vulcanite was replaced by acrylic resin or other plastics in the 20th century. With better preventative dental care, fewer people were in need of full dentures.
Even with advanced dental care, sometimes teeth are lost and substitutes are needed. Dentures help with mastication or chewing, they are aesthetically pleasing, help with enunciation, and raise self-esteem. When dentures are new, the patient must become acclimated to the device. The mouth is tricked into believing there is food present and so creates saliva, the first part of the digestive process. This leads new denture owners to have too much spit. There are some who are prone to gagging when trying to get used to them, especially if the dentures do not fit properly. There continues to be a problem with keeping the dentures seated and in place.
Happiness is your dentist telling you it won’t hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill. – Johnny Carson
Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond. – Miguel de Cervantes
Dentist: a prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coin out of your pocket. – Ambrose Bierce
A man loses his illusions first, his teeth second, and his follies last. – Helen Rowland
Also on this day:
Glamour Doll – In 1959, Barbie was shown at the American International Toy Fair.
Jean Calas – In 1765, Jean Calas was exonerated, three years after his death.
Ride, Sally, Ride – In 1964, the first Ford Mustang was built.