Contrary to the popular story, George Washington did not have wooden teeth. Even better: he had golden teeth!

... Well, sort of.

George Washington lost all of his teeth when he was a boy, due to bad dental health throughout his youth. When he was older, he had two sets of dentures made by Dr. John Greenwood, a noted dentist at the time. They were crafted from hippopotamus ivory and gold. The upper and lower gilded plates of the false teeth were bound together by springs which in turn held them against the roof of his mouth and the lower ridge of his mouth, keeping them in place.

George Washington had to clench his jaws in order to keep his teeth together. If he relaxed his jaws at all, his mouth would spring open. It is thought that this may be the reason that our Founding Father always looked so stern in his presidential portraits.

One of the sets of dentures were donated to the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore, MD, the oldest dental school in the world. The school then loaned one denture to the Smithsonian in 1976 for a bicentennial exhibit. Unfortunately, it was stolen and has never been recovered. The other one remains at the school today.


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