Chew on this: Despite legend, George Washington’s dentures weren’t made of wood. Should you like to verify this fact in-person, his three extant pairs are scattered along the eastern seaboard, readily viewable to the museum-going public.
Washington’s only full set (both top and bottom dentures) belongs to Mount Vernon and is currently on tour with our “Discover the Real George Washington” exhibit, which will arrive at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina, on September 10.
This set (shown above) has a lead base, with human teeth, cow teeth and elephant ivory serving as the actual chompers. Washington’s other two sets, which consist only of the bottom denture, are a bit more exotic, with bases made of hippopotamus ivory!
One of these is on loan to Mount Vernon from The New York Academy of Medicine and is featured in our Donald W. Reynolds Education Center. The other belongs to the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, Maryland, and has had a storied history, apart from having been in Washington’s mouth. Originally part of a full denture set, it was stolen in 1981 while on loan to the Smithsonian, and only the top was ever recovered!