February 2014 articles

Hail to the Teeth

Being president may come with a lot of perks, but good oral health isn’t necessarily one of them. While you’re celebrating past Commanders-in-Chief this Presidents’ Day, take a moment to review the dental dilemmas they faced – and then salute how far our oral health knowledge has come.

George Washington, of course, was famous for his false teeth. They weren’t wooden, though. Washington had several pairs, which were made from materials such as hippopotamus ivory, lead, and gold.1

John Adams had a presidential-sized sweet tooth. He also believed that induced vomiting could cure any number of illnesses. The combination of these two habits may have resulted in the loss of his teeth as he aged. Unlike his predecessor, Adams refused to wear dentures. With no false teeth to aid in his speech, Adams was nearly incomprehensible in his later years.2

It’s said that Abraham Lincoln was afraid of dentists – and it’s easy to see why. Prior to his presidential days, Lincoln experienced an anesthetic-free tooth extraction in his home state of Illinois. The dentist used a little too much force and ended up removing a piece of Abe’s jawbone, as well as the tooth! When Lincoln later had a dental procedure done in Washington, D.C., he brought his own anesthesia.3

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a partial denture to replace his two front teeth. His son, James, once said that it wasn’t uncommon to find his father hunting for his misplaced denture.4

But it’s not all doom and gloom: Ulysses S. Grant knew the importance of good oral health. During the Civil War, Grant once headed out to fight for six days. He took nothing with him but a toothbrush.4

And, at the age of 75, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I have not yet lost a tooth to age.”5 Not bad for the 1800s – but we’re still thankful for modern dentistry.

1 http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6875436/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/george-washingtons-false-teeth-not-wooden/#.UssiTGRDufs
2 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15508681
3 http://books.google.com/books?id=dTWcAAAAQBAJ&pg=PT197&lpg=PT197&
dq=LINCOLN’S+JAWBONE&source=bl&ots=Vp7pcfyBe5&
sig=fuYM2o_dpEHb4m3hud3Z4hmwGD0&hl=en&
sa=X&ei=ghvLUqXqIYnF2wXv1oCQDA&ved=0CGIQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&
q=LINCOLN’S%20JAWBONE&f=false

4 http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-12-06/features/9204210345_1_dental-care-dentist-dental-problems/2
5 http://endodonticsjournal.com/blogs/7/Dental-history-of-US-presidents.html&gt


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