From the cutting edge to the commonplace – Dentures throughout history

Yesterday’s innovation, today’s standard.

Almost 3000 years ago, around 700 BCE, the Etruscans in northern Italy made dentures out of human or other animal teeth.

They didn’t last long, but being easy to produce, were popular through the middle of the 19th century.

The oldest useful complete denture, however, appeared in Japan in the second half of the 16th century, and has been traced to the ganjyoji temple in Kii Province, Japan.

Possibly created by an artisan named Nakaoka Tei, the wooden denture was made of an evergreen shrub, and had almost the same shape as modern dentures retained by suction.

Wooden dentures were used in Japan until about 1868, the beginning of the Meiji Restoration.

The 14th century French surgeon Guy de Chauliac was first to coin the words dentator and dentists, but for the following 300 years ‘tooth-puller’ was the more commonly used term.

Then, in the early 1600s, ‘operators for the teeth’ became the fashion. Peter de la Roche, mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary as having treated his wife, became one of the first known by this term.

With others, de la Roche fashioned himself as a specialist in dental work. Often these so-called specialists were professional goldsmiths, ivory turners or students of barber-surgeons.

The first porcelain dentures were made around 1770 by Alexis Duchâteau, a French pharmacist. A year later, his assistant, Nicholas Dubois De Chemant, obtained the first British patent for the device.

He began selling this then-radical innovation in 1792. Most of the porcelain paste used by De Chemant was supplied by Wedgwood, of pottery fame.

The porcelain jacket crown, based on a feldspathic composition, was developed at the beginning of the nineteenth century by Charles Henry Land and, in a slightly modified form, can still be found in use today.

By 1820, Claudius Ash, a London goldsmith, had begun manufacturing high-quality porcelain dentures mounted on 18-carat gold plates.

Later, from the 1850s on, dentures were made of Vulcanite, a form of hardened rubber, into which porcelain teeth were set. This process was common until the introduction acrylic resin and other plastics in the twentieth century.

Further material developments, which concentrated on the inadequate fracture resistance of the ceramics, were based on increasing the crystalline content, for example leucite (Empress®), mica (Dicor®), hydroxyapatite (Cerapearl®) or glass infiltrated mixed oxides or spinells (In Ceram®) and zirconia.

With the introduction of pure polycrystalline oxide ceramics —for example, Procera®, by the 3M Corporation, manufacturer of the Lava ESPE System— for the first time, materials were available that possessed sufficient stability for posterior applications.

Biterite, an approved Lava 3M ESPE design centre, is the first choice of many aesthetic dental practitioners as their provider of Lava crowns and bridges.

Hopefully you found this article informative, or even entertaining. If you have any interesting facts about dental history, feel free to leave a comment here, or get in touch on our social media outlets:

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Image courtesy of: Ambro

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