If you are a denture wearer, you may have wondered how inventors arrived at the current denture model, and if it they really are as great as they should be for this day in age. Dentures have long been evolving into better materials; from teeth from humans or animals, to wood to porcelain, the human race has experimented with many material options for dentures. There are also many individuals to be thanked and credited along the way.
The first dentures were invented and used by the Etruscans in northern Italy around Tuscany. They were made from human or animal teeth. As one can imagine, they did not last long. However, they were popular with those who needed them until the middle of the 19th century. The Japanese are credited with the oldest known complete denture, which was wooden. It has been traced to the ganjyoji temple located in Kii Provence, Japan. It was made from Buxus microphylla, a compact evergreen shrub found in Japan, and current dentures mimic their shape. Wooden dentures continued to be used in Japan until the Meiji period, which ended in July, 1912.
Since then skilled professionals like ivory turners, goldsmiths and barbers have studied and created dentures. Peter de la Roche of London is believed to be one of the first “Operators for the Teeth.” Alexis Duchâteau is credited for the first porcelain dentures, which were created around 1770. Nicholas Dubois de Chemant, an assistant to Alexis Duchâteau, was granted the first British patent in 1791 for “De Chemant’s Specification,” which was for the purpose of making teeth to set specifications, such as double or single row, adding springs to make the dentures easier and more effective to use, and using different shades of color. With all these specifications, it was advertised that these de Chamant's teeth closely resembled natural teeth. Chemant began to sell his dentures in 1792, using porcelain provided by Wedgwood, a famous and old British pottery firm.
Denture history continued to be made in London. In 1820, goldsmith Claudius Ash created high-quality porcelain dentures that were mounted onto 18-carat gold plates. In the 1850s dentures were made from Vulcanite, which is a hard rubber. The leading European manufacturer of Vulcanite was Claudius Ash’s company. Acrylic resin and other plastics soon became popular denture material in the 20th century.
Modern versions of the denture are usually created in a dental laboratory. To create the tissue or gum appearance in dentures, a polymethylmethacrylate acrylic (PMMA) tissue shaded powder is used, along with fabricated acrylic teeth, which can come in hundreds of tooth colors and shapes. Most of the time, creating a denture will begin with a dental impression, that is then used to make a stone model to represent the arch in the mouth. Then the denturist or dentist will work to create a vertical dimension of occlusion, also known as the superior-inferior aspect of the maxilla and mandible to each other.
Wearing dentures is not what most of us would prefer, we want our real teeth backs. But knowing the history of dentures can give us a greater appreciation of the current denture model that most denture wearers use today. Even though cleaning dentures and using denture adhesives can become a bother and a messy hassle, it sure beats putting animal teeth or wooden dentures in your mouth.