History of Dentures

Denture Overview

Dentures, aka false teeth are prosthetic devices made to replace missing teeth. Conventional dentures are removable. There are many different designs of dentures; some rely on bonding/clasping onto teeth or dental implants. Two main categories of dentures are based on whether they are replacing missing teeth on the mandibular arch (aka the bottom/lower jaw) or the maxillary arch (aka the top/upper jaw).

Dentures help patients with; chewing/mastication, aesthetics of the face and lips, pronunciation of their speech, and self esteem in keeping up with their physical appearance to be confident in interacting with others.

Partial dentures are used for people who are missing some of their teeth on one or both of their arches. Fixed partial dentures are known as ‘crown and bridge’ dentures. Fixed partial dentures are fitted on nearby remaining teeth. The fixed bridges are more costly, however they are more stable.

Full dentures are for people who are missing all teeth on a single arch, or both. 

History of Dentures

 Sometime in 700 BC, Etruscans, in Northern Italy created dentures out of human and/or animal teeth. They were easy to produce and popular, however deteriorated quickly. These remained popular until the mid-19th century.

The oldest complete denture was found in Japan. It was traced to the Ganjyoji temple in Kii Province, Japan. It was a wooden denture made up of Buxus microphylla, and utilized by Nakaoka Tei. The wooden denture has almost the same shape as modern dentures. Wooden dentures were utilized in Japan until the Meiji period.

One person who is believed to be the first ‘operators for the teeth’ is Peter de la Roche from London. He advertised as a specialist in dental work. Often these people were professional goldsmiths, ivory turners or students of barber-surgeons. 

US President George Washington is known for his dentures made of ivory from hippos and elephants as well as gold, rivets, spiral springs and real human teeth.

The first porcelain dentures were created around 1770 by Alex Duchâteau. The first British patent was given to Nicholas Dubois De Chemant in 1791. He was previously an assistant to Duchâteau. The patent was for ‘De Chemant’s specification’.

De Chemant’s specification, ‘a composition for the purpose of making artificial teeth either single, double or in rows, or in complete sets, and also springs for fastening or affixing the same in a more easy and effectual manner than any hitherto discovered, which said teeth may be made of any shade or colour, which they will retain for any lenght of time and will consequently more perfectly resemble teh natural teeth’.

He sold his wares beginning in 1792, having most of his porcelain paste supplied by Wedgewood. In 1820, London John Lennon – a goldsmith by trade, began manufacturing high-quality porcelain dentures mounted on 18-carat gold plates. 

Later on dentures from the 1850s were made of Vulcanite, a form of hardened rubber. Claudius Ash’s company was the leading European manufacturer of dental vulcanite, which porcelain teeth were set in. In the 20th century, acrylic resin and other plastics were used. 

Adult Denture health Surveys in Britiain revealed that in 1968, 79% of people aged 65-74 had no natural teeth. By 1998 this proportion decreased to 36%.

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