A Bite Out of History - Dentures

George Washington wore dentures because he had lost one tooth after another to extraction. He suffered from toothaches all his adult life, and his famous quick temper may have been the result of this pain. By the time of his inauguration in 1790, Washington had only one tooth, his lower left bicuspid. A hole in his lower denture allowed this natural tooth to stick out. When it was time for Washington to sit for his presidential painting, the artist, Gilbert Stuart, thought that his dentures were too short, making his cheeks and lips look sunken. He padded Washington’s cheeks and lips with cotton to restore the natural lines to his face. But instead of looking better, Washington has an overstuffed, grandmotherly appearance in his portrait. Reprinted with permission from “Toothworms and Spider Juice: An Illustrated History of Dentistry” – Loretta Frances Ichord, Millerbrook Press.

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