Ah, July … barbecues, and summer fairs, fireworks, and cook-offs, and good-ol’ Independence Day hero, George Washington. In thinking about our country’s esteemed first President, you might also get to thinking about his famous teeth – or, rather his lack of teeth. Most of us know about George Washington’s famous dentures, but did you know that he also put a lot of effort into trying to care for his teeth? That might seem surprising given that at the time of his inauguration he only had a single natural tooth in his mouth, and that his dentures have achieved a certain legendary status in their own right. So, where did he go wrong?
Well, it seems Washington actually did a lot of things right, despite living in the 18th century. Where he lost out was with the inadequacies of medicine at the time. Washington is known to have cleaned his teeth daily with “tooth powder” and had a total of nine dentists throughout his life. But he was plagued by tooth problems; because of mercurous chloride treatments he received to treat his Malaria and Smallpox. Mercurous chloride is destructive to teeth, and led to his need for those clunky rhinoceros ivory dentures stuffed with a hodgepodge of human and cow teeth. Had Mr. Washington’s oral care regimen been coupled with modern dentistry, that famous set of teeth might have never become part of his legend – and the portrait that appears on each one of those dollar bills in your pocket – would most likely look very, very different!
So, this Independence season, be like George – and take care of your teeth. Brush at least twice a day, dodge as much of that cotton-candy as you can, mix-up your alcohol consumption with plenty of water to stay hydrated and safe, and when you can’t find that bottle opener, please remember not to try taking the cap off with your teeth – which, believe it or not, is a frequent cause of visits to the dentist each summer! Have a safe and happy 4th!