George Washington’s False Teeth

Image of letter (May 29, 1781). Click for larger view.Throughout most of George Washington’s life he had problems of continuing deterioration of his teeth.  This caused him a lot of pain, and none of the dentists he went to knew what to do besides take them out. Slowly but surely all of Washington’s teeth were extracted. In 1772 Dr. Baker of Philadelphia extracted several. Finally, George had to have false teeth made.  They were made out of hippopotamus ivory and cow’s tooth, carved by hand, and held in his mouth with metal springs. These false teeth were a little large for his mouth, creating a peculiar expression, which is exhibited in many of his portraits. Today, the teeth can be viewed at the University of Maryland’s National Museum of Dentistry.

This letter, written in 1781, requests cleaning utensils for his false teeth.  Having been captured by the British before it reached its destination, the letter may have led the British forces to understand the where-abouts and movements of the General. However, this is not confirmed.

From http://www.si.umich.edu/spies/stories-networks-4.html – accessed on 5/12/2009.

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