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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
Store and its social media channels. He is a regular contributor to Agent Straight Talk, the
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Take a Bite of Presidential Dental History

Feb 18, 2014

By Dean George
President’s Day is the Rorschach test of federal holidays. Ask half a dozen people who the day is meant to honor and many people will say George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays were both in February.  Others may say President's Day celebrates all presidents while others believe it commemorates the Mount Rushmore four. 

Washington dentures     Lincolns Dental Phobia   Cleveland Cancer Lesion

Or ask those marketing whiz kids at Groupon and you’ll learn that President’s Day is intended to honor “President” Alexander Hamilton, “our money-minded Commander-in-Chief.”  In case you missed it, that was a clever little stunt this week but it left me wondering how many people didn’t get the punchline: Hamilton never was president, although as everyone knows, he did invent the $10 bill. 

Secondly, unlike the Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day or even Valentine’s Day, President’s Day isn’t observed on a specific date but rather on the third Monday of February.  Apparently as Americans we have the right to life, liberty and three-day weekends.

Finally, there isn’t even any agreement as to whether the holiday is displayed as President’s Day, Presidents’ Day, or Presidents Day.  If the holiday was a person it would be classified as schizophrenic and the apostrophe would be in therapy for displacement issues.

But what does President’s Day have to do with National Children’s Dental Health Month and dental issues? Well, presumably kids still study a little about the presidents, and presidents have teeth so there you go. Okay, before you accuse me of playing seven degrees of Kevin Bacon in this post, George Washington definitely had some chomper issues, and Abraham Lincoln reportedly had such a strong dental phobia you won't believe what he did before one dental procedure when he was president.

George Washington While everyone knows that 15 minutes at Dental Insurance Store could save you money on dental insurance, did you know that George Washington really didn’t have wooden teeth? Sadly, America’s first president suffered from serious dental problems as young as age 22 and over the next 35 years he would lose all his natural teeth. In fact, when Washington was inaugurated for his first term as president in 1789 he had only one natural tooth remaining. 

Washington’s first set of dentures had a base of hippopotamus ivory carved to fit his gums. The upper denture had ivory teeth and the lower plate consisted of eight human teeth screwed into a base and fasted by gold pivots.  The set was secured by spiral springs and was the first of many pair Washington wore before his death in 1799.

Over the last 10 years of his life the Father of our Country also had dentures made of cow teeth, walrus teeth, and elephant’s tusk. Gossip has it that Washington’s dentures were the inspiration for the National Zoo. Honest, I cannot tell a lie on this subject.

Honest Abe Like many people Abraham Lincoln feared the dentist, but unlike most phobias based on imagined fears, ol’ Abe had a pretty good reason. Reportedly in 1841 a Louisville dentist broke off part of his jaw while extracting a tooth – without anesthesia.  For those readers wanting to insert their favorite HMO joke here, all the HMO plans Dental Insurance Store represents have flawless tooth extraction records with or without anesthesia.

Anyway, after that bit of dental drama Lincoln seceded from regular dental visits until a severe dental toothache in 1862 forced him to visit Dr. G.S. Wolf’s dental office near the White House. As Wolf prepared to pull Lincoln’s tooth, the president stopped the surprised dentist long enough to take a whiff from a bottle of chloroform he pulled from his pocket. 

Amazingly, the use of chloroform as an anesthetic was not widely known in the dental or medical circles of the nation’s capitol at that time.  We’ll leave it to our readers to decide if Lincoln's selfie knockout adds to his presidential mystique, but we think it’s safe to say he is the only known U.S. president to anesthetize himself in the dental chair.

Grover Cleveland Here’s a little bit of presidential trivia we’d never heard before. In 1893 a team of 5 doctors and a dentist aboard a private yacht sailing up Long Island sound to Massachusetts removed a cancerous lesion from the left upper jaw of President Grover Cleveland.  Two weeks later a second operation was done and later a customized vulcanized rubber plate was inserted to restore the president’s speaking voice while he vacationed at his summer home in Massachusetts.

All this was done secretly at Cleveland’s command because the country was in the middle of a financial crisis. Cleveland had been re-elected to deal with the crisis and his leadership was believed essential to the process.  Apparently the rubber palate plate worked so well in restoring Cleveland’s speaking voice that official news of the procedure wasn’t confirmed for another 15 years.

Happily we have no need for such secrets at Dental Insurance Store. We have a great selection of transparent dental plans at affordable prices, and best of all you don’t have to bring your own anesthesia. To see what plans are available in your area, click here.

Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk, and we invite you to follow our news on great insurance plans and dental adventures on FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Sources:,,,, Washington photo, Lincoln photo, Cleveland photo

Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©

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