On a recent trip to Baltimore, I found myself in search of one of the Smithsonian’s little publicized museums. On the Campus of the University of Maryland in the School of Dentistry sits the National Museum of Dentistry. It is a national treasure that many people don’t know of. It not only houses the history of dentistry but they display the actual teeth of our first president, George Washington. I was on a quest to see those teeth and found so much more.
Fun facts to know:
- To begin, let’s put the wooden teeth myth to rest. While he had many different sets of teeth, there is no record of any of them being wooden. The ones on display were either made of hippopotamus bone, or gold and extracted teeth. The teeth are held in place with small gold pins and a flesh colored wax was applied to the bone for, “esthetics.”
- There was also a set made of gold. This set had a spring attachment in the back to help keep them in the right place. Gold is a heavy metal and while it is helpful to have that weight in the bottom denture, I am sure it was a disadvantage when trying to wear a gold upper denture.
- Washington’s favorite dentist was Dr. John Greenwood of New York City. He made many sets of teeth for our president and Washington was not afraid to tinker with them to make them, “easy on the mouth”. The molar on the right side in this photo is Mr. Washington’s actual molar. The hole on the left side allowed Mr. Washington’s only remaining bicuspid to protrude through the denture.
- When sitting for a portrait, Mr. Washington had to have cotton stuffed into his mouth for lip support. The amount of cotton varied with each portrait and so did his appearance. It is evident when you compare portraits side by side as they do in the museum.
- George Washington was buried with a set of teeth from Dr. Greenwood.
Janelle Ferber-Stumpf D.D.S.
Making smiles beautiful since 1983
N28 W23000 Roundy Drive
Pewaukee, Wi 53072