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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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Founding Father and Dental Poster Child

Jul 01, 2014

By Dean George

This Friday, July 4th marks the 238th anniversary of America’s independence.  This weekend, Americans from sea to shining sea will celebrate our nation’s founding with cookouts, fireworks, patriotic concerts and parades.

But there is one man in particular whose courage, stamina and persistence over decades of acute pain and oral health adversity we want to celebrate in today’s post. You may know him as The Father of our Country, the American currency guy, or as the country’s first hotel spokesman immortalized in plaques along the Atlantic coast with “he slept there.”

If you see the light go on and think I’m speaking of Tom Bodett, you may qualify for 15 minutes of fame on a late night “Doofus in the Street” segment.

George Washington

Of course I’m speaking of George Washington, he of wooden teeth fame. Problem is, as we mentioned in a post on President’s Day, Washington never had wooden teeth.  No wonder everyone says that the city named for him is a cesspool of rumor, innuendo and clucking tongues and clattering teeth!

But here’s something I can’t tell a lie about. Washington may have been our first president, but he’s probably the last one that will ever be inaugurated with just one natural remaining tooth in his mouth.

It wasn’t that Washington was too busy leading the Continental Army across the Delaware River on Christmas Eve, or wishing for global warming at Valley Forge that he neglected his daily brushing.

On the contrary, according to many biographers’ toothpowders back then were made from abrasives like pumice, borax, - even burnt bread and tobacco. I’m sure there were no Surgeon General warnings back then on toothpowder containers that brushing with Marlboro or Winston could destroy tooth enamel. Especially since there was no Surgeon General.

Also, despite his athleticism and natural grace, Washington suffered from a history of illness that would make Woody Allen proud: smallpox, headaches, dysentery, malaria, muscle and joint pain and rheumatic issues. Standard medical treatments in Washington’s day consisted of calomel, or mercurous chloride. Calomel is known today as an insecticide and fungicide. It’s also known as a destroyer of teeth.

Factor in the known tooth enamel destroyers above along with Washington’s naturally poor teeth, and it’s little wonder why he suffered as early as age 22 with serious dental issues.

Through 35 years of outstanding military and public service poor George suffered frequent episodes of infected and abscessed teeth, inflamed gums and repeated tooth extractions.

Before serving as the Continental Army Commander in the Revolutionary War, Washington had his first set of partial dentures made by Dr. John Baker. The dentures were made of ivory but unlike the custom-fitted dentures and dental implants available today, Washington found them ill-fitting and uncomfortable.

Over the next several years Washington owned several sets of partial dentures before he was fitted with his first full set by John Greenwood in 1789. It was that set of dentures made of hippopotamus ivory carved to fit his gums that Washington wore when he was sworn in as our nation's first president.

Over the next 10 years Washington had dentures made of cow teeth, walrus teeth and elephant’s tusk. Despite regular adjustments and repairs, he suffered from acute dental discomfort the remainder of his life. Sadly, his denture distress forced him to skip speaking at his second inaugural in 1793 and relegated him to eating soft foods in later life.

The good news is that today whether you aspire to be president, lead an underdog army of farmers against a foreign superpower, or just want to see your smiling face on funny money, there are dentists and dental plans that want to help you maintain a healthy life, liberty and the pursuit of oral health happiness.

We have plans available across the fruited plain all throughout our land of liberty and of these we’ll sing if you click here. Enjoy your 4th of July and those freedoms that great Americans like George Washington made possible.

Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn.


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Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC

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