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They Put What in Their Mouths?

A Historical Look at Implants and Dentures
Today, when people require a set of false teeth or an individual dental implant, they turn to modern dentistry to provide them with a synthetic substitute, usually made from plastic. However, this solution has only been around for a few decades; in the past, those in need turned to more crude alternatives to copy their original choppers.
In desperate times, people have come up with many weird teeth substitutes, including bones taken from animals and even humans. But while do-it-yourself dentistry may be unrefined, uncomfortable, and unsavory, one thing is for sure: mankind has always displayed a high level of creativity when it comes to creating false teeth. Keep reading to discover all the weird dentures and implants that have been used around the world, past and present.
4000 Years Ago
Materials: Bamboo
Nearly 4,000 years ago, craftsmen in ancient China used bamboo pegs to make false teeth. They are the first known group of people to use dental implants. However, these weird dentures aren’t just a thing of the past. Dodhi Pathak, a resident of India’s Nalbari district of Assam, was reported to have made substitutes for his front incisors out of bamboo in 2001. Reports say that the bamboo teeth could offer a white appearance and were durable enough to last 10 years.
3000 Years Ago
Materials: Copper and Other Precious Metals

Remains of Egyptians have been discovered with pegs similar to the Chinese dental implants. However, they used precious metals like copper instead of bamboo. They are the first recorded culture to use a metal replacement to fix a jawbone. Some speculate that these procedures were done post-mortem.
2300 Years Ago
Materials: Iron and Gold
In a Celtic grave in France, a 2300-year-old dental implant was discovered in the mouth of a skeleton. The decorative tooth was held in place by an iron pin, which would have been excruciatingly painful to have hammered in. Something similar has been discovered in the teeth of ancient Romans, who used gold pins. Archaeologists speculate that these kinds of implants were placed in order to enhance the wearers smile. Basically, it’s like an ancient grill to bling up someone’s teeth.
2000 Years Ago
Materials: Animal or Human Teeth

A couple of millenniums ago, people tried to replace lost teeth with animal ones. Despite what the Twilight saga may want us to believe, there is no real proof that werewolves exist. However, there is proof that humans have transformed themselves with wolf teeth. One skeleton dating back to 2500 BC revealed a man from ancient Mexico who had a set of false teeth made from either wolf or Jaguar fangs. There’s not much info on how successful these teeth were, as researchers speculate that the animal teeth were used for ceremonial purposes.

One skeleton dating back to 2500 BC revealed a man from ancient Mexico who had a set of false teeth made from either wolf or Jaguar fangs.

Today, replacing a tooth with an animal one is classified as a heteroplastic implant, and a tooth from another human is called a homoplastic implant. In most cases, these kind of replacement teeth would be rejected by the host and would lead to infection.
Nothing makes a better replacement for human teeth than… human teeth. In 2010, researchers unearthed the Guinigi family tomb to find a mess of human remains, including a Renaissance-era example of false teeth. The dentures strung together five human teeth using a strip of gold metal to adhere them to the lower jaw. While no exact date could be placed, they’re estimated to have been made between the 14th and 17th centuries. They would also purchase teeth from slaves or poor people.
1350 Years Ago
Materials: Seashells
Mayans really had a thing for dental improvements, including their precise art of embedding jewels into existing teeth to fashion a prehistorical grill. In 1931, archaeologist Dr. Wilson Popenoe and his wife discovered something fascinating in the lower mandible of the remains of a young Mayan woman from around 630 AD. In her mouth, three incisors were missing and replaced with pieces of seashell. Interestingly, there was bone growth found around two of the implants, showing that it was a successful procedure. The implants served as both a functional and aesthetic enhancement to the mouth.
400 Years Ago
Materials: Wood and Beeswax
Although false teeth substitutes date far back into ancient history, the Japanese are credited with making the first set of full dentures. Similar to today’s molding methods, 16th-century dentists, used beeswax to make an impression of human teeth. That mold was then used to carve a hard set of teeth out of wood from the Japanese box tree. The solution was so solid that its reported to have been used up until the 19th century.
200 Years Ago
Materials: Ivory and Porcelain
George Washington didn’t have a good go with dental health. In fact, by the time he became the first president of the United States, he only had one functional tooth. While it’s not true that this forefather used wood to replace his teeth, he did have quite a few sets of false teeth. For example, George Washington had a pair of dentures crafted from ivory and metal alloys. He also was known to have sets made from human, cow, and horse teeth.

George Washington had a pair of dentures crafted from ivory and metal alloys. He also was known to have sets made from human, cow, and horse teeth.

In 1774, French pharmacist Alexis Ducheateau and dentist Nicholas Dubois De Chemant created the first set of successful dentures made from porcelain – the same material used to produce toilets and fine china. While the duo was looking for a solid replacement for ivory false teeth, their porcelain alternative didn’t fare well. These fake teeth chipped too easily and were too white to provide a realistic appearance. However, a few decades later, Elias Wildman crafted porcelain dentures that were slightly more translucent for a more natural look.
Recent History
DIY Deer Dentures
In the 1960s, Canadian woodsman Francis Wharton took to the wild to make a full set of upper teeth. Finding himself in need of a replacement for his teeth, Wharton killed a deer and took its teeth. He then filed the teeth down to make a semi-human appearance and implanted them using a combination of plastic wood and household cement. It’s rumored that Wharton – known as the Backwoods Wizard – even ate the deer with the teeth that he crafted from the animal!
Your Own Teeth – and Superglue
When faced with lost teeth, British woman, Angie Barlow, used superglue to put her old teeth back in. She is reported to have been so afraid of the dentist that she preferred her homemade fix to a professional one. The process wasn’t too complicated: She just placed superglue on top of the dead tooth and held it in place until it affixed itself. Eventually, she did this enough times that she essentially created a set of dentures out of superglue. However, this isn’t a recommended resource for dentures – Barlow eventually had to go to the dentist, as her superglue solution didn’t hold up and she eventually lost 90 percent of the bone that supported the upper teeth.
Modern Dental Implants
Dental implants have come a long way since humanity first developed primitive teeth replacements and enhancements. But what are implants like in the modern dental world?
The advancements of implants took a huge leap thanks to the Swedish dental professional, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark. Like many great inventions, the discovery of successful implants was accidental. He and his team were studying how blood flow affects bone healing in 1952. During the experiment, they put optical devices encased in titanium into the lower legs of rabbits to observe the healing process. But when the experiment was done, they were unable to remove the device from the bone because the titanium and bone had fused together. He concluded that titanium could be used to anchor artificial teeth, and he named the process osseointegration.
In the mid-1960s, Dr. Branemark performed the first titanium dental implant surgery. The patient was a man with jaw deformities, a cleft palate, and no teeth in his lower jaw. The successful dental operation allowed for the patient to use his dentures until his death four decades later, thanks to his four titanium implants.
Even with this success, it still took Dr. Branemark years to get the medical and dental establishment to be on board with the use of titanium in dental implants. Even though he did have some successful operations early on, there were many patients whose mouths rejected the titanium implants, resulting in pain and infections. But as the science behind dental implants advanced, his process become accepted by the international dental community. Finally in 1982, Dr. Branemark made the case of osseointegration at a professional meeting in Toronto. There he won widespread recognition for his methods and materials.
Teeth Grown from Your Own Stem Cells
The death of dentures may be in the near future, thanks to dental researchers at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine. Instead of using artificial materials for teeth, these scientists are turning to stem cells taken from a patients own body to generate tooth buds. Attached to tooth-shaped scaffolding, these buds are said to eventually grow into a mature tooth. However, it’s an incredibly complex process and the scientists are currently working on creating the best scaffolding to get the job done.

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