Did George Washington’s dentures contribute to his death?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY,  President Washington! 

282 years old   February 22, 1732-2014

Dentistry has come a long way since Dr. John Greenwood gave you those dentures in 1789 made from >>>>>>>>

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There must be dozens of portraits of George Washington. I have never seen any with him smiling. Those darn Hippo dentures with the spring openers must have been painful.

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Light from a red laser scans a resin reproduction of the 1789 lower denture originally carved from Hippopatamus ivory for George Washington.

Was the throat infection that took George Washington’s life caused by colonies of bacteria that grew in his world famous dentures?   What material were they made from?

By the time he became President, in 1789, at age 57, he had only one tooth remaining,   At his inauguration, Washington was wearing a full set of dentures which were attached to his final tooth. Washington had frequent dental problems during his tenure as commanding general of the Continental Army. A famous painting of Washington in 1779 shows a scar on his left cheek, believed to be the result of a badly abscessed tooth.

One cannot help but wonder if his teeth might have been the source of the chronic infections he suffered. His dental and health problems were intertwined.

Washington was treated by no fewer than eight prominent dentists who practiced in colonial America, but his favorite was Dr. John Greenwood.  Dr. Greenwood’s dentures had a base of hippopotamus ivory carved to fit the gums. The upper denture had ivory teeth and the lower plate consisted of eight human teeth fastened by gold pivots that screwed into the base. The set was secured in his mouth by spiral springs. The upper and lower gold plates were connected by springs which pushed the upper and lower plates against the upper and lower ridges of his mouth to hold them in place. Washington actually had to actively close his jaws tightly to make his teeth bite together.

His final dentures were made in 1798, the year before he died. This set had a swaged gold plate with individual backing for each tooth and was fastened together by rivets. Today, the lower denture is on display in the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, and another the set was donated to the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore, the oldest dental college in the world.

Source: Research by Michelle Keib

2-15-14 PRES. DAY

1 thought on “Did George Washington’s dentures contribute to his death?

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