History of Bridges and Dentures

By Stephen Dowell, DDS on March 22, 2019


A custom porcelain dental bridgeWe often take dental care innovations for granted. Have you ever wondered when false teeth were invented? Or what materials were used to make them? You make have some guesses, but the history you don’t know can be extremely surprising. That’s why the Dowell Dental Group team would like to go over the history of dentures and custom dental bridges for the replacement of missing teeth.

Experienced Minerva, OH dentists Dr. Stephen C. Dowell and Dr. Byron Rossi can discuss if dentures or bridges are right for you during a consultation. But for now, let’s take a quick trip through history.

Ivory False Teeth of the Ancient World

The first replacement teeth in history date all the way back to 700BC. The Etruscans in central Italy created false teeth with a base made of ivory, which was then adorned with human teeth and animal teeth. The ivory base was generally crafted from the tusks of walruses, elephants, and hippopotamus teeth.

The Etruscans also used gold and other materials at this time to craft dental crowns. They were rudimentary but effective.

Wooden False Teeth of the 16th Century

Ivory would remain a staple material for false teeth for centuries. It wasn’t until the 16th century in Japan that wood was regularly used as a base for false teeth. While all-wood false teeth were first used, these were eventually adorned with ivory, human teeth, and animal teeth.

A quick word about George Washington’s wooden teeth: his false teeth were never really made of wood. Washington had several sets of false teeth, but they were all ivory based.

Porcelain False Teeth of the 18th and 19th Centuries

As a material, porcelain dates back to the 3rd century in China. Refinements in the material made over the course of centuries led to porcelain being used for dental work in France during the 1700s. Porcelain was further strengthened as was used more often for dental work in the 1800s.

The Mid-to-Late 1800s: Jacket Crowns and Rubber

A major move forward in the development of dental bridges involved the creation of the jacket crown. This was a porcelain dental crown that would fit over a prepped tooth. This would pave the way for refinements in the crafting of dental crowns and the eventual development of the bridge as we know it today.

In addition, vulcanized rubber started being used as a base for dentures during this time. This was more comfortable than ivory or wood, and could be colored to match the gumline.

Modern Materials in the 20th Century

Modern materials in the 20th century helped improve dental work throughout the 20th century. The advent of acrylic resins and plastics in particular led to much more affordable and malleable dental appliances. Porcelain crowns could eventually be made without a metal base, and the development of zirconia led to even sturdier forms of dentures and dental restorations.

Computer Imaging and Dental Appliance Design

Beyond materials, the 20th century was revolutionary in terms of technological advances and their effects on dentistry. Digital x-rays led to digital scanning techniques. Combined with CAD/CAM technology, this meant that dentists could custom craft three-dimensional dentures, dental crowns, and bridges for optimal fit and incredible aesthetics.

Learn More About Treating Tooth Loss

For more information about treating tooth loss and improving your dental health and wellness, be sure to contact our experienced cosmetic and restorative dentists. The team at Dowell Dental Group is here to help. You can reach us by phone at (330) 868-5001.

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