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Historical Dentistry: George Washington’s Oral Health

Posted Feb 16 2013 5:27pm

In honor of Presidents’ Day, Dr. Randall LaFrom and our staff would like to share interesting information about our first president’s dental health. Many historians have lauded President Washington for his leadership capabilities and military record. However, behind the scenes George Washington was plagued with poor dental health throughout his life. In fact, he was known by those close to him for his short temper because of his constant discomfort.

George Washington’s Dental History

  • President Washington began losing teeth at the age of 22
  • His tooth loss was attributed to periodontal (gum) disease
  • By the time he was inaugurated as the first president of the United States, George Washington only had one tooth left.
  • Despite popular legend, President Washington did not have dentures made from wood. However, he had multiple sets of dentures made from gold, human teeth, hippopotamus tusk, and elephant ivory.
  • A famous portrait of George Washington shows a facial scar. Historians believe this scar was caused by surgery for an abscessed tooth.
  • President Washington saw no less than 8 dentists in his lifetime. His favorite dentist was named John Greenwood.
  • To clean his false teeth, George Washington soaked them in port wine overnight.
  • In addition to gum disease, his tooth loss may have been caused by medications such as calomel, a compound that is known to destroy teeth over time.
  • George Washington brushed his teeth daily with a silver toothbrush and toothpaste . He also utilized a tongue scraper made from silver.

Thankfully, modern dentistry has come a long way since the colonial period. Our patients don’t have to suffer from the constant pain and discomfort that President Washington did. In fact, patients have more options than ever before to replace missing teeth and prevent gum disease. To schedule an appointment with Dr. LaFrom, contact our Cupertino dentist office at (408) 996-8595 . We serve patients from Sunnyvale, Saratoga, Campbell, San Jose, and Santa Clara County.


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