How Many Teeth Did George Washington Have When First Elected?

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The first U.S. President, George Washington, had lifelong struggles with his teeth, and by the time he was inaugurated in 1789, he only had one natural tooth remaining, and he wore a nearly full set of dentures to fill in the gaps. Washington's inauguration dentures were made by a dentist named John Greenwood, who constructed the special occasion false teeth out of ivory, brass and gold. Contrary to myth, Washington's teeth weren't made of wood, but rather of a variety of materials such as human teeth mixed with animal teeth from cows and ivory from hippopotamus teeth in addition to metals such as gold, brass and lead.

The notion that George Washington's false teeth were made of wood may be related to the fact that his dentures often became stained and took on a brownish hue that resembled wood. Though this may sound unsanitary, Washington was actually quite concerned with his dental health, and there are letters from the Revolutionary War detailing his concern over receiving cleaning supplies such as tooth scrapers. In fact, one of these letters was intercepted by the British military. This was embarrassing for Washington, who was self conscious about his dental health, but ended up being a strategic advantage as it misled the British as to the Continental Army's movements.