Share this on:Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

How modern are dentures? Take a look back

Replica of an Etruscan prosthesis, about 700BC

Replica of an etruscan prosthesis, about 700BC

If you take a look back at the history of dentures, you might be surprised how very little denture technology changed in nearly 2,700 years! The changes were more along the lines of the materials used, rather than the technology. It wasn’t until the 21st Century that new technology, such as AvaDent dentures, came on the scene with its leading edge digital technology. Hard to believe that it took so long for technology to catch up with an age-old problem, isn’t it?

Around 700BC, Etruscans, an ancient civilization associated with the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany, western Umbria, and northern Lazio in Italy, made the first dentures out of human and animal teeth. They were easy to produce and remained popular into the 1800s, along with ivory dentures introduced in the 1700s, even though the tooth material deteriorated fairly rapidly and was prone to discoloring, more functional than cosmetic.

What ultimately sweetened the progress of dentures was the increased impact of sugar in diets during the 18th Century, which led to increased tooth decay. It’s estimated that in a 30 year period, 1860-1890, British per capital sugar consumption increased a whopping 500 percent! While most of have heard about George Washington’s wooden teeth, that’s a myth. President Washington actually sported the highest quality false teeth of the times. His false teeth consisted of a dental plate made out of carved hippopotamus ivory into which human teeth and parts of both horse and donkey teeth were affixed.

Ivory dentures popular until mid-1800s

Ivory dentures popular until mid-1800s

And a Frenchman, Alexis Duchateau, is credited with crafting the first porcelain dentures. But these chipped as easily as a tea cup and were such a bright white that they were unconvincing, so they never quite captured the false teeth market. Instead, what became popular was a term coined “Waterloo teeth”, referring to the teeth taken from dead soldiers’ mouths where they lay after the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. In addition to dead soldiers, teeth were often taken from executed criminals or supplied by grave robbers and poor people who may have sold their own teeth in desperation for funds.

Next up, an innovative silversmith and goldsmith in Westminister, Claudius Ash, was commissioned to come up with new and improved dentures. This was in 1820 when most false teeth were still made from ivory or from human teeth. He designed 18-karat gold plates using springs and swivels. He then mounted porcelain onto the plates, the end result being a superior model both aesthetically and functionally. Thirty years later, a form of hardened rubber into which porcelain teeth were fitted, called Vulcanite, became popular. This model enabled people to experience hinged articulation between their upper and lower jaws for the first time. Mr. Ash ended up becoming the leading European manufacture of dental Vulcanite.

And it wasn’t until the 20th century that acrylic resin and other plastics became preferred materials and stayed around for years into the 21st Century, until technology finally caught up. In 2011, Global Dental Science set out to solve the problem of how to automate the production of a denture so that a manual process fraught with errors and inaccuracies could instead become an elegant, consistent and precise outcome for patients. With AvaDent denture technology, patients experience the thinnest, lightest denture ever made and are enjoying the natural feel and look, a far cry from days gone by.

The “good ol’ days’ will never be said when referring to dentures, we know that for sure!