Although it is widely believed that the United States' first president, George Washington, wore wooden dentures, there is no evidence to suggest that he actually did. There is, however, much evidence that Washington -- who had only one natural tooth remaining when he became president in 1789 -- wore expensive dentures that were technologically advanced for the 18th century. Rather than wood, these were crafted of gold, lead, ivory and human and animal teeth.
How Rumors Get Started
The origin of the wooden dentures myth is unknown. One suggestion is that Washington's ivory dentures became stained and had a yellow or browning appearance, leading people to think they were wooden. This possibility is supported by a letter written to Washington by his dentist, John Greenwood. In the letter, Greenwood advises Washington that drinking port wine is a likely cause of his denture discoloration. Another explanation that has been suggested is that the myth started as an explanation for Washington's grim expression in portraits.
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