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Washington’s Teeth

Most of us have learned over the years that George Washington’s fabled wooden teeth were not primarily made of wood, but of ivory. What is less well-known is that his dentures were also made partly of human teeth.

The teeth were acquired from his slaves.

While the barbarity of that fact is sobering, it is also the fact that Washington paid the slaves for their teeth. And it is important to realize that the custom of rich people purchasing teeth from poor people was commonplace at the time.

Another common practice was for dentists to actually implant the purchased human teeth into the rich people’s jaws. Washington had this procedure performed in 1784, but it was not successful.

(Wiencek 112)


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