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History of Dental Bridges

By Andrew Mortensen, DDS on November 29, 2018

A set of dental bridgesIf you’re missing a tooth or a few teeth, there are many options for treatment to consider. Dental bridges are a great treatment for tooth loss, for example, improving the appearance of your smile while restoring your ability to bite and chew normally. Fountain Valley, CA dentist Dr. Andrew G. Mortensen has helped plenty of patients get custom bridges following tooth loss.

Dental bridges didn’t come from out of nowhere. There was a long history of development and innovation behind them. With that in mind, let’s consider the history of false teeth and bridgework, noting some key facts and innovations from the past.

Early Attempts at Replacing Missing Teeth

Some of the first attempts at bridgework and false teeth date back to 700BC. The Etruscans created crude false teeth that were made from human teeth and/or animal teeth. These false teeth with usually have a base made of ivory taken from walruses, elephants, and hippopotamuses.

Using teeth from people and animals would be a common practice for tooth replacement until recent centuries. Etruscans also used gold dental crowns to help cap damaged teeth, which would be important in the development of different kinds of bridgework.

Wooden False Teeth

Some of the earliest examples of wooden fake teeth can be traced to Japan in the 16th century. To fashion these false teeth, impressions would first be taken using beeswax. While the initial wooden false teeth we completely comprised of wood, they would eventually incorporate ivory, human teeth, and animal teeth.

Thanks to trade and global exploration, wooden false teeth wound up in the western world in the 18th century. Wood and ivory would be common materials for tooth replacement during the 18th and 19th centuries.

About George Washington’s Famous False Teeth

Since we brought up wooden teeth, we should take a moment to talk about George Washington’s wooden teeth. There’s a problem, though. George Washington never had wooden teeth. It’s a myth just like young George Washington chopping down a cherry tree.

In truth, George Washington did have several sets of ivory false teeth that were held together with springs. These false teeth contained human teeth.

Dentures Made of Ivory and Porcelain

Porcelain dates back to the 3rd century in China, with proto-porcelain materials used hundreds of years before that. Its first use in dental work can be traced to France in the 1700s. This dental porcelain would be refined and strengthened, achieving greater durability in the 1800s. This made ivory and porcelain two common materials for false teeth

Morbid Smiles: “Waterloo Teeth”

Since human teeth were still commonly used for tooth replacement until the 20th century, it may come as no surprise that some teeth were taken from the dead to be used in dentures and bridgework. This brings us to “Waterloo teeth,” which were teeth literally taken from the thousands of dead soldiers following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

20th Century Innovations

The 20th century saw the rise of numerous key innovations that would improve the quality of crowns, bridges, and other dental restorations and appliances. For one, plastic helped create durable and affordable false teeth and appliances. Refined dental ceramics and porcelains were also developed during this period.

Better understanding of the function of the teeth allowed dentists to improve bridge design, focusing on comfort as well as durability and aesthetics. As digital technology improved, dentists also improve their ability to take impressions and customize dental appliances, optimizing dental wellness in the process.

Learn More About Dental Bridges

For more information about dental bridges and whether or not they’re a good option for you, be sure to contact an experienced cosmetic and restorative dentist. Dr. Andrew G. Mortensen is here to help you. You can reach our practice by phone at (888) 471-3735.

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I am proud to have served patients in our community. Through continuing education and state-of-the-art equipment, we are able to offer you and your family the high level of care you're looking for. Andrew G. Mortensen, D.D.S.

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Fountain Valley Office

18837 Brookhurst St
Ste 109
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Open Today 7:30am - 4:30pm

More Info Directions (714) 964-4183