George Washington and Dental Implants
Many of us are familiar with the stories of George Washington and his “wooden dentures”. The reality is that while George Washington was afflicted with dental problems and tooth loss, culminating in his having to wear full dentures for much of it, they were not actually made of wood. The various prostheses that Washington wore during his life were constructed of various materials including lead-tin, copper, and silver alloys and human and cow teeth. Though these were undoubtedly designed and fabricated with the most up-to-date knowledge of that time, Washington’s journal entries and correspondence throughout his life reference the irritation and pain he experienced as a result of these attempts to replace his teeth.
Modern titanium dental implants were first introduced into North America in 1983. The initial indication for their use was for the patient who was completely edentulous, but in subsequent years improved implant and prosthetic design enabled them to truly individual teeth. This was a quantum leap, not only in the field of dentistry, but in the quality of life of dental patients. The irony of all of this is that in the 2 centuries following George Washington’s experience, although the dental profession had developed much less bulky and more natural appearing materials for prostheses to replace missing teeth, until 1983, the best that we could have done for George Washington was to have…made him a denture!