Nothing but The Tooth: Famous Teeth Throughout History
History is full of the deeds of great men and women. For one reason or another, they may have done something that forever shaped the lives of people living within their respective territories. Some, like Elizabeth I, were born into royalty and got that chance early. Others, like George Washington, had to grab it — the general was famous for leading the Continental Army, which made the US into what it is today.
But what can be said about their teeth?
Going to the dentist was not as common as it is today during Elizabeth’s times. However, the histories of these famous people still leave space for something very human — dental hygiene. Let’s look at these famous people and what their dental history looks like.
- Elizabeth I of England
It’s the mid-1500s, and it’s in England. The wealthy and powerful are hushed in street corners, and the latest craze from the Indies just arrived — Sugar. The upper crust of society in 14th century England spared no expense in indulging in this new-found sweet treat, which included the ruling monarch at the time, Elizabeth I. While she indulged in sugary confections, she neglected her visit to the dentist. As a result, she lost so many teeth that the people she spoke to found it too taxing to understand what she was saying.
- George Washington
From the 1500s, we go to the Colonies at the time of the Revolution. George Washington, the great general, sported a denture that was made of a combination of ivory mixed with human teeth. Some of it was his own, while others were bought from slaves. Why was he wearing a denture in the first place? The first President practiced poor dental hygiene earlier in his life. By the time he was president, there was only one natural tooth remaining in his mouth.
- Napoleon and Julius Caesar
These two men share a common destiny — and dental health — as it appeared. Julius Caesar conquered many territories in his years as Roman emperor and until his death. For his part, Napoleon spread Parisian culture throughout Europe as he did the same, until his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. It is interesting to note that both men featured natal teeth or teeth already in the oral cavity when they were born.
- Ancient Humans through History
The Mayans, Egyptians, and Neolithic humans were the first to try out different processes to preserve their teeth. On the Neolithic humans’ part, when they lost a tooth, they filled the cavities with beeswax to keep it sealed. Egyptians, meanwhile, were the first to use toothpaste — a formula was found from 400 AD. On the other hand, the Mayans were the first to ‘bling’ their teeth, using early drills and gems derived from stones.
- King Tut and the Blacksmiths
What is the connection between blacksmiths and King Tut, you may ask? Well, during the time he was discovered, dentistry was already a widely practiced trade. The boy king’s mummy still had his wisdom teeth intact, which the scientists used to deduce his age — he was 19 when he died. Had he been discovered in the 1800s, it would’ve been up to blacksmiths and barbers to help with the dental work, as they practiced this trade during that time.
- John Lennon’s Molar
The tragic death of John Lennon may have played into the value of his teeth, a molar that he presented to his housekeeper in the mid-60s. Her daughter was a huge fan of the Beatles, and what better than a tooth from one of them? It sold for $31,000 in an auction held in 2011, where a Canadian dentist went home with the tooth.
Fun facts as these may be, it kind of makes you thank the times you live in today. The next time you find yourself without anything to do during the pandemic, why not try to pay some attention to your dental health?