Human teeth were once also used for dentures. Poor people would often pull their own teeth and sell them for money. However, this type of denture soon rotted. Rich people preferred teeth of silver, gold, or mother of pearl.
During medieval times, the practice of dentistry was mostly confined to tooth extractions. Replacing lost or decayed teeth was seldom considered. Gaps between teeth were expected, even among the rich. In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth I filled the holes in her mouth with cloth to improve her appearance in public.
Hundreds of years ago, when false teeth were placed in the mouth, they were hand-carved and then tied in place with thread. If a person didn’t have enough natural teeth remaining, anchoring false teeth was very hard. People who had full sets of dentures had to remove them when they wanted to eat.
Paul Revere, most remembered for his “midnight ride,” was a metalworker by trade who constructed dentures from gold and ivory. Even George Washington suffered from tooth loss and ill-fitting dentures. The first president of the United States had dentures made of metal and carved ivory, or metal and carved cow’s teeth—but never made out of wood.
In 1839, Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanized rubber, which could be molded to fit the mouth and made a good base to hold false teeth. Dentures could now be made comfortable and at an affordable fee.
Today dentures are either plastic or ceramic.