Did George Washington Have Wooden Teeth?

Quck answer

No, George Washington did not have wooden teeth. Contrary to popular belief, his dentures were not made of wood. They were made from a combination of materials including ivory, gold, and human teeth. Washington had poor dental health and lost many of his teeth throughout his life, which led to the misconception that he had wooden dentures. However, wooden dentures were not common during his time. Despite his dental problems, Washington took great care of his oral hygiene and regularly cleaned his remaining teeth.


Although Presidents’ Day may be called Washington’s Birthday, it will never coincide with George Washington’s actual birthday on February 22. Let’s honor the “Father of Our Country” by exploring some of the myths and legends surrounding this remarkable Founding Father.

If you recall our recent Wonder of the Day about cherries (Are All Cherries Red?), you’ll know that the story of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree as a young boy is not true. This tale was fabricated by an author to showcase Washington’s honesty. How ironic!

Another popular legend suggests that George Washington had wooden teeth. Since he lived a long time ago, it’s possible that this story is true. What do you think?

If you guessed that Washington really did have wooden teeth, you’re mistaken! Contrary to popular belief, he never had wooden teeth. Although he did wear false teeth, none of them were made of wood.

Historians believe that Washington had lost all but one of his teeth by the time he became president. The dentures he wore during his inauguration were made of carved hippopotamus ivory and gold by Dr. John Greenwood, who is now known as the “Father of Modern Dentistry.”

Researchers have conducted laser scans on another set of Washington’s dentures, which are located at the National Museum of Dentistry. These dentures were made of gold, ivory, and real teeth from both humans and animals, such as horses and donkeys.

Another popular legend states that Washington once threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River. However, Washington could not have accomplished this feat, as the Potomac River is over a mile wide. Additionally, silver dollars did not exist when Washington was young.

One of his distant relatives, however, claimed that Washington threw a rock “about the size and shape of a dollar” across the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he grew up. Although it is uncertain whether this is true, historians believe it could be possible.

The Rappahannock River at the site of the Washington family homestead is only 250 feet wide, which would make for an impressive but not impossible throwing distance.

In light of the partially true stories we have uncovered about Washington, let’s examine some facts that we know to be true.

George Washington was:

  • The only one of the country’s Founding Fathers who freed his slaves
  • The only president who did not reside in the White House or Washington, D.C.
  • The only president who was unanimously elected
  • The Commander of Continental Forces during the Revolutionary War

Try It Out

As you learned in today’s Wonder of the Day, myths and legends about famous historical figures should not always be believed. It can be challenging to uncover the truth, especially about individuals who lived hundreds of years ago.

Historians dedicate countless hours to researching old texts in order to discover the truth about their subjects. It is often easier to uncover the truth about people who are alive today.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few well-crafted interview questions. Today, imagine yourself as a journalist trying to uncover interesting facts about a family member.

Consider what information your friends and other family members might be interested in. Take a pen and a notebook and conduct an interview with the person you have chosen.

Ensure you cover the basic details such as their birthdate and place, as well as where they attended school. However, also delve into more intriguing topics. What are their aspirations and dreams? Is there something specific they regret doing or not doing?

Enjoy the process of conducting the interview! You never know what you may discover. If possible, transform your interview into a brief article that you can share with friends, family, or even your teacher.

Additionally, please email us a copy as well. We would love to learn more about your family!

FAQ

1. Did George Washington really have wooden teeth?

No, the popular myth that George Washington had wooden teeth is not true. While it is true that Washington experienced dental problems throughout his life and eventually lost most of his teeth, his dentures were not made of wood. His dentures were actually made of a combination of materials, including human and animal teeth, ivory, and metal springs.

2. Why is the myth of George Washington’s wooden teeth so prevalent?

The myth of George Washington’s wooden teeth became prevalent due to a combination of factors. Firstly, Washington’s dental issues were well-known during his time, and the materials used in his dentures were not widely understood. Additionally, the use of the term “wooden teeth” was a common way to refer to dentures in general during that era, which contributed to the misconception.

3. What were the reasons behind George Washington’s dental problems?

George Washington’s dental problems can be attributed to a variety of factors. Poor dental hygiene practices, such as infrequent brushing and lack of access to modern dental care, likely played a role. Additionally, Washington had a habit of cracking nutshells with his teeth, which may have caused damage. Furthermore, his diet, which consisted of heavily acidic foods and sugary treats, also contributed to his dental issues.

4. How did George Washington cope with his dental problems?

George Washington had to cope with his dental problems throughout his life. As his teeth deteriorated, he had several sets of dentures made to replace them. These dentures were crafted by various dentists and were made using a combination of materials, as mentioned earlier. Despite the challenges, Washington managed to function well and fulfill his duties as the first President of the United States.

5. Did George Washington experience any discomfort due to his dental problems?

Yes, George Washington experienced discomfort due to his dental problems. His dental issues caused him pain and difficulty while eating, speaking, and even smiling. The ill-fitting nature of his dentures often led to discomfort and soreness in his mouth. Washington sought treatment from various dentists and tried different solutions to alleviate his discomfort, but his dental problems persisted throughout his life.

6. How do we know that George Washington didn’t have wooden teeth?

We know that George Washington did not have wooden teeth because there is ample evidence to disprove this myth. Historical records and accounts from Washington’s contemporaries confirm that his dentures were not made of wood. Additionally, examinations of Washington’s surviving dentures, conducted by modern researchers, have revealed the materials used in their construction, further debunking the myth of his wooden teeth.

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