Posted on 5th February 2018
The Evolution of Dentures
At Norfolk Dental Specialists, we work closely with our referring dentists and associate dental technicians to make sure that the crowns and artificial teeth that are fitted to our implant patients use the latest technology and materials. Our focus is on restoring functionality, but our restorations also look natural. These two factors have been the Holy Grail of attempts to create artificial teeth. Implant treatments provide our patients with the chance to have genuinely functional and natural-looking artificial teeth. As this brief survey of the evolution of dentures will reveal, humans have been chasing this goal for centuries. Modern implants and restorations represent the ultimate evolution of artificial teeth - a problem that took generations to solve.
The Earliest Dentures
Archaeological examination of Etruscan and Roman tombs has revealed that missing teeth were sometimes replaced with an animal tooth fastened into place with a gold band. On the whole though, early European civilisations had pretty healthy teeth. Provided the teeth weren’t knocked out, the low life expectancy meant that most adults were buried with most of their teeth intact. That all changed in the 17th Century with the popularity of imported refined sugar from the colonies.
The British upper class’s love of sugar combined with poor dental hygiene led to a huge demand for false teeth amongst the rich in the early modern period. A popular style of denture had a carved ivory base with real human teeth affixed to it. Finding quality teeth for the dentures was a problem that led to graverobbery and a black market for healthy teeth – desperate peasants would literally sell their eye teeth. This situation came to an end after the battle of Waterloo. 50,000 dead soldiers had their healthy teeth removed and sold to the denture trade. ‘Waterloo teeth’ were fashionable well into the Victorian era.
The development of porcelain teeth (patented in France in 1770) paved the way for modern dentures. Originally, these were attached to a base of gold, ivory or wood. However, the possible dental applications of a new flexible rubber called Vulcanite were quickly recognised. This substance could be moulded to the shape of the gum. Vulcanite dentures were the original comfortable and affordable denture – giving access to false teeth to the masses for the first time.
In the Twentieth Century, acrylic plastic was developed and widely used in crowns and artificial teeth – usually as a veneer over a metal tooth. Acrylic is low cost, but it is not as durable as alternatives such as porcelain or a synthetic resin called dental composite. Ceramic restorations – pioneered in the 18th Century – are still popular today because they are tough, durable and have a toothlike enamel colour that makes for a natural appearance.
This patient had been a denture wearer for years. However, no matter how good her dentures were, the patient wanted a fixed and permanent solution and elected for a full upper arch of implants.
We’ve come a long way since the Etruscan civilisation strapped animal fangs into the gaps in their teeth! At Norfolk Dental Specialists, one of our specialist treatments involves implanting artificial roots of titanium into a patient’s jaw. Once the implants have fused, artificial teeth can be attached to them. This final stage of the process – known as restoration – is usually performed by your own dentist who will be happy to chat to you about the different options available.
To find out more about our implant treatments, download our PDF: All you need to know about dental implants.