History of Dentures

We often think of dentures or false teeth, as an innovation introduced into our society in the 1800s to replace teeth lost from poor nutrition, lack of vitamins or poor health.  If you thought that, you’d be way off!

Ceremonial dentures were worn over teeth to change the individual’s appearance in much the same way as an actor has props, as long as 4,500 years ago!

Etruscans from northern Italy constructed dentures from human bone scavenged from battlefields or animal teeth around 700BC!  This type of denture was not uncommon until the 1800s. At this time the dentures were cosmetic but not functional.  Generally they were removed before eating because they were not secure enough to chew with.

However, functional wooden dentures, made from the evergreen shrub Buxus microphylia, were found to be made in Japan as early as 1538. The shape of these mimic the ones still used today, covering each type of tooth loss and kept in place by suction.

As time passed, it is the goldsmiths or barber-surgeons that labeled themselves “operators for the Teeth”.  The first one came from London, named Peter de la Rouche.

Alexis Duchateau made the first porcelain dentures around 1770 although it was his former assistant, Nicholas Dubois De Chemnant who applied for and received the British patent in 1791.  Here, the dentures also sported springs for fastening the dentures into place.  At that time, Wedgwood had been successfully using hard paste for porcelain to mimic the whiteness in tea ware, which Nicholas Dubois incorporated into his denture design, making them appear more like natural teeth.

A goldsmith named Claudius Ash began making high-quality porcelain dentures mounted on gold plates in London in 1820. This transitioned into vulcanite in the 1850s on hardened rubber where porcelain teeth were set.

By the 20th century, acrylic resin and other plastics replaced these materials.

We certainly have come a long way.  Modern dentures are often made (usually in dental laboratories) with a mixture of different types of acrylic that reflect the true color of the gums as well as the natural color and appearance of teeth. The versatile acrylic teeth are accessible in hundreds of shapes and colors.

The procedure making the denture starts with an impression that is made of the upper and lower jaw which assists in making sure that the dentures have the most accurate customized fit.

You can rely on the skill of all those innovators who have come and gone.  Now no one knows you’re wearing the denture other than you and your dentist. You can rest easy.