While dentures are a prosthetic device and obviously can never be as good as the real thing, consider yourself lucky that you didn’t need dentures in previous centuries. Did you know that 18th and 19th century dentures were made from ivory and animal bone and often included the teeth of executed criminals or exhumed bodies? While ivory and animal bone were used for many years, it was eventually discovered that human teeth were a much better much match for both fit and function and consequently, human teeth began to be collected for denture use in a variety of ways including recovering the teeth from many unfortunate souls who lost their lives in prison, through execution or through illness. Of course, the teeth that were used from these sources often brought with them a variety of infections (including syphilis) that were spread when contaminated tissue from these teeth came into contact with the new patient’s open wounds in the mouth. As a result, the need to protect patients from these infections became a real concern and the hunt was on to find young and healthy teeth. Luckily, in 1815, the 51, 000 men that died fighting the Battle of Waterloo left behind many sets of young and healthy teeth and these teeth and any other teeth left behind by dead soldiers became referred to as “Waterloo Teeth”. Throughout the various wars of the 19th century including the Crimean and American Civil Wars, “Waterloo Teeth” were recovered by ‘body-snatchers’ who followed armies into battle, removed the teeth from dead soldiers and then sold them to dentists and surgeons at a very low cost. The history of dentures has been an evolution in science, technology and understanding.
As the 19th century wore on, the upper class began to realize that they were wearing teeth from lower class and deceased persons and the stigma associated with this close and gruesome association resulted in a demand for more suitable materials, such as porcelain. Today, modern materials such as polymethylmethacrylate acrylic (PPMA) are used to make denture teeth and are available in heat cured or cold cured varieties. Commercially produced acrylic teeth are available in hundreds of shapes and tooth colors and happily, body snatchers are no longer required!
For your new smile, call a professional denturist in Victoria BC such as Cole Merkley at Westshore Denture Clinic.