Dentures have been around for centuries, and the materials used to make them have changed drastically over time. From animal teeth to wood, ivory, porcelain, and even plastic, dentures have come a long way. Let's take a look at the history of dentures and explore what the first dentures were made of. The earliest dentures were made with animal teeth. Ancient Egyptians and Etruscans crafted dentures from reused human and animal bones, wire, and teeth.
The first surviving set of complete dentures was made of wood, dating back to 16th century Japan. Ivory was one of the most common materials used in early dentures. It was sourced from animals such as hippopotamuses, elephants, and walruses. Although they worked well when first installed, ivory teeth had cavities and never looked natural.
In Europe during the 1700s and 1800s, ivory remained the main base material for dentures. Innovations in France during the 18th century led to the use of porcelain in dental care. This primitive dental porcelain was quite fragile, but 19th century innovations resulted in a much stronger form of the material. Today, acrylic resin is used to make denture plates with an artificial gum line that looks just like natural gums. When properly cared for, acrylic resin dentures can last 5-8 years before needing to be replaced. The main drawback is that they tend to wear out faster than dentures with porcelain teeth.
Metal dental plates are generally more durable and may offer a better fit than acrylic resin plates. Nicholas Dubois De Chemant improved porcelain for dentures in 1791 by making it more resistant and patented the first British patent for porcelain prosthesis. Plastics made it possible to manufacture more affordable dentures and helped eliminate the need for real human teeth. Vulcanite dentures became available to the middle class in the mid-1850s. Acrylic dentures are generally less expensive than porcelain dentures and are lighter in weight. While there are many anecdotes about George Washington with wooden teeth, he never had wooden dentures; his were made of ivory. Modern innovations have resulted in dental prostheses that look more realistic and are stronger than ever before.
Dentures have helped people feel more confident in their smiles and improve their ability to chew and speak normally.