History of Dentures… Article By Dr. Dalvir Singh Pannu

What is a denture?

Dr. Pannu- A tooth or teeth can be replaced with either a fixed or a removable prosthesis. A denture is a removable replacement for a missing tooth or teeth. Complete dentures replace all teeth while partial dentures replace one to several teeth.

What is the history of dentures?

Dr. Pannu-Replacements for decaying or lost teeth have been produced for thousands of years. Skillfully designed dentures were made as early as 700 BC using ivory and bone. Unfortunately, this level of technology was lost until about the 1800’s. During Medieval times, dentures were seldom considered. Gaps between teeth were expected, even nobles had them. Queen Elizabeth I filled the holes in her mouth with cloth to improve her appearance in public. When dentures were installed, they were hand-carved and tied in place with silk threads. Retention of false teeth was more difficult as the number of teeth diminished in the mouth and those that wore full sets of dentures had to remove them before eating. Upper and lower plates fit poorly, and were held together by steel springs. Even George Washington suffered from tooth loss and unfit dentures. The major reason that the level of technology didn’t increase is because suitable materials for false teeth were hard to find. These problems began to be solved in the 1700’s. Since ancient times, the most common material for false teeth are animal bone or ivory, especially from elephants or hippopotamus. Human teeth were also used; pulled from the deceased or sold by poor people from their own mouths. These teeth soon rotted or decayed. Wealthy persons had dentures made of silver, gold, mother of pearl, or agate. In 1774, Duchateau and Dubois de Chemant designed a full set of dentures that would not rot. They were made of porcelain. Giuseppangelo Fonzi created a single porcelain tooth held in place by a steel pin in 1808. Claudius Ash made an improved porcelain tooth in 1837. Porcelain dentures moved to the United States in the 1800’s. They were marketed on a large scale.

Fit and comfort eventually improved as well. In the 1700’s plaster of paris was introduced. It was used to make a mold of the patient’s mouth. This helped the shape of the dentures to be more precise. There was a real breakthrough when vulcanized rubber was discovered. This is a cheap, easy to work with material that could be shaped to fit the mouth and hold the denture. Another cheap base was also made; it used celluloid. Celluloid was tried in place of rubber but it didn’t prove to be the best material to use. Today dentures are either plastic or ceramic.

How are the dentures fabricated ?

Dr. Pannu- here are two types of dentures, one is a full denture, and the other is a partial denture. Full dentures replace all of the teeth in either the upper or lower part of the mouth. Partial Dentures replace one to several teeth. Full dentures are held in place in the mouth by suction. In some cases when a good suction is not possible, the use of denture creams is necessary. Partial dentures are held in place by metal clasps that wrap around some of the remaining teeth. A partial denture can also be retained in the mouth with hidden clasps, which make these dentures blend with one’s natural dentition. The fabrication of both types of dentures is fairly similar.

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