The history of dentures is both frightening and fascinating, with earliest records backdating to the 7th century. Though today’s technology gives us comfortable and easy to use dentures, it used to be a lot more difficult to replace missing teeth – and a lot grislier too. In today’s blog, we take a look at the history of false teeth and why we’re lucky modern dentistry has come so far.
The history of dentures: A timeline
History of dentures: The 7th century
Hailing back to the 7th century, dentures were first created by the Etruscans of ancient Italy using animal and human teeth. Fashioned using gold wire, these ancient dentures were likely used strictly for cosmetic purposes as the materials used would not have been able to withstand the pressure from the jaw. Before this, humans would create makeshift dental implants using animal teeth, shells, and carved stones to replace missing teeth. This was surprisingly successful in some humans, as archaeologists have discovered skulls with bone healed around the implants.
History of dentures: The 16th century
However, it wasn’t until the 16th that people started to create dentures that work similarly to what we use today. The first records of this appear to have originated from Japanese woodworkers, who would fashion dentures using materials such as beeswax and glue. This technique was adopted by western civilisation roughly one century later, as inventors began to tinker with the material porcelain. At around the 18th century, sugar became an extremely popular commodity across Europe, which saw an increased need for tooth repairs and dentures. Despite the hardwearing nature of porcelain, it was incredibly susceptible to chipping and was highly expensive, meaning dentures could only be afforded by the wealthy.
History of dentures: The 17th century
Considering how expensive and fragile porcelain teeth could be, people looked to other avenues for replacing teeth. A notable solution involved using the teeth from dead soldiers, which saw a boom during the Waterloo battle in 1815. These dentures could take up to six weeks to make and were created using an ivory base. But because the teeth had no blood supply to attach to, they’d quickly deteriorate and would fall out easily. When there were no bodies to scavenge, ads would be put up in papers requesting the donation of teeth in exchange for money. This saw a lot of peasants donating multiple teeth – both voluntary and involuntary.
Given how little time these types of dentures lasted and the rising demand for new teeth, goldsmiths began experimenting with gold plates and porcelain. In 1820, a contraption was made using these materials and with additional springs and swivels to make the dentures more natural.
By the mid-1800’s inventors were created an alternative to porcelain using vulcanite. This base was considerably cheaper to make than gold and could be moulded to fit a person’s gums. This material was widely used until the 20th century when acrylic took over as a denture base. Dentures in the 1930s started to be created using acrylic resin and porcelain and set the criterion for modern dentures today.
History of false teeth: The dental implant
For people with just a few teeth missing, dentures were not a viable solution as a replacement – which is when dental implant technology came into play. The 1800s sure plenty of attempts to fuse various metal with bones, but most would not successfully anchor to the jaw. It wasn’t until the 1950s Swedish orthopaedic surgeon discovered that bone could fuse with titanium rods in what was described as ‘osseointegration.’ Titanium is still used to this day in dental implants, as well as hip implants, shoulder implants and more.
The modern denture
Now, in the 21st century, dentures are created using porcelain, acrylic, acrylic resin, and composite resin. These dentures are created to fit a patient’s jaw to exact specifications and are built to last up to seven years. So advanced are modern dentures that patients report that it mimics their natural teeth exactly, designed to match the exact age and characteristics of an individual patient. In addition to conventional full dentures, BPS dentures and SEMCD dentures are amongst the leading cutting edge dentures available on the market today.
Interested in cutting edge modern dentures that won’t disrupt your lifestyle? Book a consultation with one of our dental prosthetists by calling 1300 304 092 or find your nearest clinic to schedule an appointment today!