History of the United States

What Were George Washington's Dentures Made Of?

You've probably heard the claim that George Washington's teeth were made of wood. It's a fascinating story, but we hate to break it to you: It's not true.

Presidential Teeth

When George Washington took office on April 30, 1789, he only had one single tooth—a premolar. "He began losing teeth as early as his twenties, and was eventually forced to wear several sets of unsightly and painful dentures," according to History. The dentures he wore to disguise his toothlessness were made of several materials: the teeth of horses, donkeys, cows, and humans, all mounted on lead "gums." There is no evidence to suggest that his teeth, nor those of anyone else in that time, were ever made of wood.

Washington's dentures are in the collection at Mount Vernon.

A Source of Shame

According to the presidential historian Michael Beschloss, Washington was embarassed by his dental problems. "Washington strove, in life, to resemble a monument," Beschloss wrote in the New York Times. "This was important to his self-esteem and, he believed, to the dignity and credibility of his fledgling nation. To him, the dentures were a mortifying sign of weakness. "

George Washington's Dentures

Key Facts In This Video

  1. There is only one complete surviving set of George Washington's teeth. 00:13

  2. George Washington started losing his teeth in his mid-20s. 00:26

  3. George Washington's teeth have a lead base, and the teeth are those of horses or asses, cows, and humans. 01:02

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Written by Curiosity Staff February 20, 2017

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