George Washington’s (Wooden?) Teeth

In honor of Presidents’ Day, allow us to devote this week’s blog to one of the most famous mouths in U.S. history — the one belonging to former president George Washington. Born on February 22, 1732, George Washington became the first President of the United States in 1789. One of the things he is most well-known for is that he served as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Thereafter, George Washington emerged as the unanimous choice to serve as the first President of the United States. Aside from his political career, this famous past president is well known for having “wooden teeth.” But is that fable true? Read on. 

Myth or Fact? George Washington’s Wooden Teeth

According to, it was a myth that Washington had wooden teeth. “Next to the legend of the cherry tree, the story that George Washington wore wooden dentures arguably remains the most widespread and enduring myth about Washington’s personal life. While Washington certainly suffered from dental problems and wore multiple sets of dentures composed of a variety of materials—including ivory, gold, lead, and human teeth —wood was never used in Washington’s dentures nor was it commonly employed by dentists in his era.

Nevertheless, even into the mid-twentieth century, scholars published studies of Washington describing his false teeth as being crafted out of wood. Today older adults still remember being taught this tale in school. The National Museum of Dentistry, the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, and the Papers of George Washington project at the University of Virginia find these mythical dentures a common subject of interest for visitors.”

Washington’s Dental Pain

Washington experienced great discomfort and facial distortion with his cumbersome metal and ivory dentures.  Moreover, the belief that Washington had to use teeth made out of ordinary wood — as opposed to the technologically advanced and expensive contraptions he actually did wear — helps make Washington more accessible to the general public as a common person with everyday struggles. Perhaps this myth has endured because it balances Washington’s imposing status in American history and the idealized images of the man presented in other myths like the Cherry Tree legend and, in doing so, humanizes an individual who may often seem remote and statuesque.

Commitment to Oral Health

Because dental pain affected his ability to work, our first president advocated for dental hygiene and oral health. Even so, his own dental health was far from perfect. Research shows he may have had an upper-right-side impacted molar removed. As a founding father, Washington also played a role in creating our country’s dental health policy. 

With a few fillings and a lost tooth, George Washington is an example of how anyone can have a healthy mouth, no matter their socio economic or political status. 

From all of us at Blue Ocean Dentistry, Happy Presidents’ Day!

About Dr. Fred Wong of Blue Ocean Dentistry in Glendora, California

Dr. Fred Wong and the staff at Blue Ocean Dentistry use the latest available dental treatments, equipment, and materials – all of which make a marked difference in our patients’ experiences. We are committed to helping our patients achieve optimal dental health. We creatively combine dental science and artistry — which can literally redesign your smile. Since even a subtle change in your smile will help you to project self-confidence and high self-esteem, we love helping you feel good about yourself. We deliver the finest dental care at the most reasonable cost and accept most dental insurance plans as well as CareCredit. For more about the dental treatment plans we offer or to schedule an appointment, call today (626) 852-6999.