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The World’s Most Interesting Subject: Dentures

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You may think that dentures are the most boring thing ever. That’s what you think, right? Actually, dentures have an incredible history.

This may be less than easy to grasp, but tooth decay isn’t an exclusively American discovery. For millennia, humans have wrestled the problem of tooth loss and tried to answer it. In ancient Egypt, some of the world’s first “dentists” used golden wire to string together fake teeth to replace decayed ones. Later, in Europe, early dentists wired together human teeth with animal teeth to form primitive false teeth. And as incredible as these discoveries were, the Japanese answer has both of them beat.

Around the early 16th century, Japanese dentists used soft beeswax to create an impression of the oral cavity. The impression was filled with harder beeswax, and that became a model of the mouth used by carvers to make wooden dentures. The origins of this method have been tracked to a Buddhist temple, and one of the most prominent wearers of these dentures was the priestess Nakaoka Tei. Although wooden dentures may seem archaic in our time, the rest of the world wouldn’t catch up with Japan’s denture process for the next 300 years.

Dentures today are usually fashioned from stain-resistant and strong substances, such as plastics and resins, so we probably won’t be able to create any wooden dentures for you. If you need an oral health checkup, please call our Germantown, Maryland, office at 301-972-1400 now to schedule an appointment with Dr. Adam Vitelli and the team at Adam Vitelli Comprehensive Dentistry.