Have you ever wondered what people did about dental health in ancient or early modern times? People have always had teeth, but they haven’t always had the dental technology available today. In the early years of human civilization, people were actually less likely to have issues with their teeth than they are in modern times, as there was considerably less sugar in the human diet back then.
Sugar didn’t really become a mainstay in the diet until the 18th century, when changes in production and industry made it much more readily available. That led to greater instances of tooth decay and related problems, such as gum disease. But, people still lost the occasional tooth before that. Take a look back at what people used to replace their teeth.
The form of dentures in ancient times varied based on where in the world a person was located. In ancient Egypt, for example, dentures might be made of discarded human teeth, held together with gold wire. Other cultures also used real human teeth, or in some cases, animal teeth, to replace lost ones.
It’s believed that people from certain lost tribes in Mexico would replace missing teeth with wolves’ teeth. They may have simply pushed the animal tooth into the gum line, instead of threading it into position with a piece of wire. People from the Mayan civilization, on the other hand, were thought to have developed a very early form of dental implants. To replace missing teeth, they would push rocks, bone fragments or pieces of seashells into the gums. It’s believed that the new materials were able to fuse to people’s jawbones, making them a permanent replacement.
Some cultures used dentures made of wood to replace lost teeth. The Buxus microphylla tree, or Japanese Box, was believed to have supplied the wood used to produce a set of false teeth for Nakaoka Tei, a priestess at a Japanese temple.
By the 1700s, the preferred material for dentures was actually ivory, harvested from animals such as hippopotami, walruses, or elephants. Ivory dentures were more expensive than other options at the time, such as wood. Contrary to popular belief, the false teeth worn by President George Washington were not actually made of wood. Wooden dentures might have been durable, but they didn’t look natural and wouldn’t have been ideal for the leader of the new United States.
President Washington wore a range of different types of dentures during his life. In some cases, the dentures were made of ivory and were implanted over his natural teeth. At other points, his dentures were made from horse or donkey teeth, bone, human teeth or brass. They were held in place by wires made of either lead or gold.
Denture wearers in the early days of America, like Washington, would often have to see their dentists for adjustments or replacements. It’s reported that Washington regularly sent his dentist his dentures to have them repaired.
The first set of porcelain dentures was created by a British dentist in the late 1700s. Initially, porcelain dentures were very bright white and very fragile. By the 19th century, a method of adhering the porcelain dentures to metals was developed, creating a solution that was strong and somewhat natural looking.
By the middle of the 20th century, dentists were in the beginning stages of developing dental implants as they are known today. In the U.S., Dr. Norman Goldberg and Dr. Aaron Gershkoff performed a good deal of the early research about implants in the late 1940s and 1950s. Over in Sweden, a orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, was conducting an experimental surgery on a rabbit using a post made of titanium. The post fused to the bone of the rabbit and couldn’t be removed.
The discovery, later called osseointegration, has paved the way for the development of modern day dental implants. Although at first implants were one-size-fits all, today’s implants can be fitted to the size of a person’s mouth and shaped so that they look like a natural part of the mouth.
Replacement teeth have really come a long way. While early forms of dentures made it difficult to speak or eat, with implants, a person today can do everything she or he did with her or his natural teeth.
Even hundreds of years ago, people understood the importance of maintaining a healthy smile and the appearance of having teeth. If you are missing a tooth or are having problems with your current teeth, Miami periodontists and implant dentists Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas can help you get the smile you long for. To schedule an appointment, call (305) 447-1447 today.