A Short History of Dentures – Dr. K – Seattle Dental and Denture Arts – Seattle, WA

Jun 7 • 2 minute read

Modern dentures, from traditional acrylic to implant-supported, allow people to replace one or more missing teeth. With the help of your dentist or a denturist, they are tailored to match your unique smile and even look like natural teeth. Long ago, they were not so easily made or comfortable. From ancient Etruscans to the first rubber denture, here’s a short history of dentures through the ages. 

7th Century BC to the 1500s

The Etruscans were a group that lived in modern-day Italy before the Romans rose to power. According to an article by J.A. Donaldson, “The Use of Gold in Dentistry,” these people filled gaps using animal and human teeth secured to the smile with gold bands. These could be compared to bridges today. Romans and other cultures copied this technique for some time. By the 16th century, the Japanese had begun making dentures out of wood, using beeswax as impressions to accurately craft them, according to the article, “George Washington [was] not the only one with wood choppers.” These prosthetics were handmade from a special wood that allowed dentures to be resilient and long-lasting, and stayed in place with suction. Later on, the wooden teeth were substituted with animal teeth, crafted bits of horn, and extracted human teeth. 

1700’s to the 1900’s

According to the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum, in an article by Erin Wingfield titled, “The Disturbing History of Dentures,” by the 1700s, Europeans crafted dentures from metal frames, with the teeth replacements crafted from animal bone. Gold was still used to attach teeth to the dentures, which could be made for both upper and lower rows. At this time, however, dentures were too expensive for most. As sugar became more prevalent in European and American society, tooth decay was rampant, especially among the higher classes that could consumed it. Dentures in the West were made with springs and a metal framework to keep them in place and were incredibly uncomfortable. Porcelain dentures were being crafted by the end of this century, but were weak and ineffective compared to the alternatives. 

The 1800s were revolutionary for the use of dentures. With the introduction of vulcanite, a special type of rubber, a denture was made for anyone to wear. This material could be shaped to a patient’s mouth and then hardened for comfortable use. Although the company that manufactured these dentures faced issues with patents, the new denture was widely sold by dentists throughout the U.S. and spread to other countries. The production of acrylic dentures with porcelain teeth would not be accomplished until the next century. 

Contact Dr. K for Expert Denture Care

Our Seattle practice, near Pikes Place Market, offers fully custom denture services to our patients. With a specialized denture clinic and denturist available, you can obtain reliable and comfortable dentures that restore a functional bite. We offer only modern materials that appear natural and give back a complete smile. Call us today for denture assistance!

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