The Comfort Evolution of Modern Dentures

There is some disagreement about just how long humans have been making and wearing dentures. Some of the early estimates include 7th-century Etruscan dentures made from human or animal teeth. These models were held together with thick metal bands that surely couldn’t have felt too comfortable in the mouth. Others suggest that dental prostheses existed as early as 2500 B.C. in the form of painful wire-wrapped tooth replacements right next to the gum line.

More recently (but still quite a while ago), the Japanese popularized wooden dentures. These 16th-century models were made from beeswax impressions and hand-carved to fit the wearer. While they had to have been more comfortable than the bulky wire-framed Etruscan dentures, can you imagine how heavy they probably felt? From here, things continued to evolve toward comfort.

George Washington’s Long Battle With Uncomfortable Dentures

A lot of myth surrounds George Washington’s relationship with dentures. Some people believe that the first US president cut down a cherry tree with which he carved his dentures. While this is untrue, he did have a tumultuous relationship with dentures throughout his life.

According to an article in the Journal of the American Revolution, President Washington was in constant communication with dentists and craftsmen to create the perfect set. At one point, he had a spring-loaded set of dentures that were so painful, bulky, and finicky, that he rarely laughed or opened his mouth to speak for fear that they would launch outward.

Some of his complaints about his dentures included that they:

  • Shot too far out beyond the gums
  • Forced his lip out just under the nose
  • Kept him from eating what he liked
  • Weren’t secure in his mouth
  • Caused pain and discomfort
  • Damaged his existing teeth

His most famous portrait by Gilbert Stuart highlighted the unfortunate fit of Washington’s dentures by puffing out the lower lip. While Washington didn’t live to see a comfortable set of dentures, better-fitting models were just on the horizon.

19th Century: The First Rubber and Plastic Models

Ever heard of the name Goodyear? As in, the Goodyear tire? Well, the very same Charles Goodyear was the first to invent a way of producing rubber. This hardened Vulcanite became the base for most dentures for the next 75 years! Vulcanite was more comfortable, natural-looking, and form-fitting than its predecessors, and by the time the patent expired on rubber dentures, they were quite affordable to make and purchase!

In this same time period, inventors experimented with a thermoplastic base and gutta percha, a naturally-occuring, flexible kind of rubber that we still use in dentistry today. These models are quite similar to our current technology.

Modern Dentures, Lightweight and Durable Plastic

Over the next century and a half, dentists and inventors began to nail down the techniques and materials that would evolve into our modern models of dentures. Plastic proved to be difficult to perfect, but over the years we’ve added fibers to strengthen the prosthesis, changed our production procedures to create more translucent (and less noticeable) models, and vastly improved design technology to make dentures as customizable as possible.

How We Design Your Perfect-Fitting Dentures

Thanks to modern technology, we can create form-fitting dentures that perfectly adhere to your gum line and remaining teeth. From partial dentures to complete dentures to snap-ins, we have options that will suit your current and future needs. We have a variety of crown and base material options to help you get the most secure fit and natural look. Thanks to these evolutions, we can also change your dentures to be better fitting over time. You’ll never be stuck with painful, ill-fitting dentures like George Washington was.

Visit Smile Lounge to Get Your Smile Restoration Assessment

Our restorative dentists have the training, experience, and expertise to craft your perfect smile. We can use the materials that are most comfortable and accessible to you and that will give you long-term comfort and confidence. If you’re hoping to finally get your quality of life back, we want to be the ones to facilitate your smile restoration. Call 469-778-4091 today to schedule your appointment!

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