Friday, 10 December 2010

Teeth – Washington, Hippopotamus, Vered, Eastern Europe, Jannie


We forget at this time of feasting that we are so lucky to be living, in the Western world, ... we have teeth, they are looked after, we tend not to suffer with them, and if we need some falsies - that can be sorted too. Teeth – who would have thought that that one word would produce a connective thought process?

I had happened to hear a BBC World snippet about George Washington (1732 – 1799) – of well known fame, as much today as when he lived 250 years ago ... he had one tooth at the time he became President in1789, but for the sake of vanity endured a full set of “falsies” .. did you know that?


Farmer at the dentist, Johann Liss, c. 1616-17.


The portrait by Gilbert Stuart, used on the One Dollar Bill - I mentioned in a previous post about snuff– has Washington looking one way, while on the Bill he looks the other! But in that picture, I thought Washington’s mouth looked ‘a little strained’ ... which now I know was obviously correct: his sets of teeth causing great pain, for which he took laudanum.

Can you imagine having plates carved from hippopotamus and elephant ivory, into which real human teeth and bits of horses’ and donkeys’ teeth were inserted, then held together with gold springs? (None of them being made from wood as the lore seems to suggest).


George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797

The French man Pierre Fauchard (1678 – 1761) has been recognised as the “father of modern dentistry”, so his early connections with the Navy and the rapid spread of knowledge through Europe and across into the American Colonies, may well have been instrumental in Washington being able to have a plate made with false teeth.


Dental needle-nose pliersdesigned by Fauchard in the late 17th century to use inprosthodontics.

Thinking about sets of false teeth, years ago when I worked for an organisation in London exporting capital plant and machinery to Eastern Europe – we had sold a few teeth lines into Russia! We just don’t think about these sorts of aspects of life – do we?

Then I was reading ‘The Week’ in the part titled .. “It Must Be True .. I read it in the tabloids” .. about a zoo in Shanghai investing in a four foot long toothbrush – guess what for? To clean its hippos’ teeth ... up to this major investment, they had been cleaned with a broom.

A keeper brushes a hippo's teeth at the Shanghai Zoo Photo: REUTERS
(The Telegraph Newspaper .. it is not a tabloid!)

In the wild the hippos live mostly off grass and do not worry about oral hygiene, while at the zoo they are fed on fruit and vegetables, which can get clogged in their teeth. Seems strange thinking about oral hygiene in animals ... but of course that’s exactly what the animals do in their natural habitat.

Just slightly off the subject ... stalactites and stalacmites ... also need to be cleaned off .. as the mud from cavers, if left there, will corrode the growths – so to keep them in pristine condition .. they are brushed off, this time with dish brushes .. then they shine like underground stars!

Vered (to the right), who has a very appropriate web non-de-plume of “MomGrind” ,wrote this wonderful article about her daughter’s visit to the dentist – which had got her musing .. “How Lucky We Are” about our teeth and the facilities we have today.

To top it off another blogger, Jannie of Funsterland, showed us a fun video of her daughter wearing her father’s suspenders?! Well to me – they’re braces ... do we suspender or do we brace? Do we teeth or do we hold up trousers ....?

So these amazing sets of co-incidences led me to post about teeth .. and as it’s that time of year ... when we use our gnashers for many delicious goodies ... spare a thought for others in less priveleged places and days gone by ... of ... I let your imagination take you along your chosen path ...

Dear Mr Postman .. I’m sure my mother will love this post – these are the sorts of things that would have amused her .. and I’d have been sent home to find out more about George Washington, his portrait and his teeth .. and she’d definitely have laughed at the hippo having its teeth cleaned! Today it is a mild day here .. further north Britain is still in the grips of winter, as are many in the Northern Hemisphere – the other London in Ontario has had a major dump or two .. we are due to another Arctic blast next week – ugh!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

74 comments:

Betsy Wuebker said...

Hi Hilary - Yes, it's quite common knowledge that old Geo's teeth were not his own. Having endured orthodontics myself, and Pete and I having paid for five additional sets of braces, all at quite healthy pops, I can attest to the value. When my daughter played softball I lived in fear that her $5000 teeth were going be on the receiving end of an errant ball or bat. But we are fortunate to have access.

Nowadays, in my 50's, it seems as though heroic measures are taken to keep ourselves "longer in the tooth," but as my dentist informed me, the minute you turn to dentures, your jaw can start to deteriorate. Evidently, it's an intricate system. Who knew?

My dad always said he joined the Navy in WWII so he could get his teeth fixed. I'm sure they were affected by close to malnutrition in the Depression when he was a boy. But the Navy fixed him right up. They pulled every one, and fitted him with dentures at age 18. He used to pop them half out of his mouth at the dinner table when my mother wasn't looking. We'd laugh and get sent to our rooms without having to eat our lima beans. His little secret. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betsy .. gosh what a wonderful comment .. and you all knew his teeth weren't his own - oh well! Just the connotation of fixing him up with a plate .. amazed me. I have been lucky then .. no braces, no orthodontic work .. and reasonable teeth.

Interesting comment from your dentist .. yes I can believe that.

The Services did look after their men/women .. but I'm certain malnutrition during the Depression did not help at all. Poor chap - having dentures all his life .. except for the laughs he could pull! Brilliant ploy to let you all off eating your lima beans .. as long as you'd had a good meal til then?!

Great to see you .. thanks for the teething comment! Cheers Hilary

Holly Ruggiero said...

The advancement in this field has astounded me. Now most people don’t even require braces but use special retainers that are invisible Instead of a root canal you can have a tooth implant. And even simpler the fluoride treatment most of us had as kids to help prevent cavities. Yet, we still hear about our elders who are in pain from ill-fitting dentures.

Sara said...

Hilary -- I enjoyed this post, even though the idea of a dentist isn't a pleasant one for me. I've had my share of teeth issues:~0 "OPEN YOUR MOUTH WIDER" is a phrase I tend to dread as the bright light shines in my eyes.

On the other hand, I loved the part about the hippos and I must admit I am very pleased I do not when G. Washington did...yuck!!

As usual, you have delighted me with your smorgasbord of thoughts about teeth:~)

Happy a happy holiday, my friend. I hope both you and your mom will stay warm!!!

vered said...

I had no idea about George Washington! How sad. I felt pain just reading your description. Yes, we are extremely lucky. Thank you for the link. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Holly .. thanks - yes I think of when I used to go to the dentist as a kid & how much has changed in my life time .. ok not having kids - didn't know braces weren't so necessary now & could use special retainers!

Yes - our parents or grandparents may well have terrible times with their dentures .. or plates .. and we see them lying around in funny places occasionally!

Thanks for coming over - all the best Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. great .. I know most people find dentists one of their least favourite people! So sorry to hear of your troubles - but at least they're looked after!

I know the hippo brush I thought was great fun, when I saw it. Me too - living in that era certainly must have had its fair share of pain! Smelly too!!

Delighted you enjoyed the mix .. you too have a good break enjoying the holiday season .. Mum and I will be fine. Cheers .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vered .. ah! you're like me from another part of the world .. and sorry if I brought back visits to the dentist for you or the children! We are so lucky ..

Very pleased to put the link in - it all seemed to gel together .. enjoy the weekend ... Hilary

Chris Edgar said...

Yes, this definitely puts things in perspective and reminds us of the blessing that is modern dentistry, as much as we don't tend to see the upside when we happen to be in its experts' chair.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chris .. how right you are .. we just forget that so much has happened in recent years and that modern dentistry is incredible. To transport ourselves back .. would be pretty uncomfortable I think!

Thanks - enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

Kathryn Magendie said...

I have good strong teeth ... I notice so many of my characters have strong white teeth *laugh* - maybe I'm obsessed by teeth :-D

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Kat .. me too .. just luck I guess - but I think if I was writing - my characters, especially my hero and perhaps my grinning messainic villain would both have big strong teeth - as yours do .. I'm sure you're not obsessed by teeth .. well I hope not?! Thanks for coming by and Have a good weekend .. Hilary

Nick said...

Okay, well, I guess I won't complain about MY dentist ever again.

Susanne Drazic said...

Hi Hilary. Yep, I knew George's teeth were not his own. Glad they weren't wooden ones, as some of the stories say. Would have hated for them to start to splinter when chewing!

J.D. Meier said...

I wonder what they say to get the Hippo to open wide. I think the dentist has a hard enough time to just get me to stay open.

I had always heard George had wooden teeth, but the truth sounds even more interesting.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick - yes .. that's a good comment to make! I think I've been lucky .. I've always had good dentists! Thanks for the visit - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susanne - yet - the lore lingers on .. as JD below says - he thought they were wooden.

Gosh - the thought of splinters when chewing .. beggars the thought too much! Not a good thought! Enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. I wondered who'd ask that question! And I have no answer ... and keeping our mouths open for long enough to have work done .. stresses and strains the jaw!

Oh good .. and you're right the truth is even more interesting to know about .. Thanks .. enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

Dot said...

Hilary, you are a font of unusual information! I loved seeing the hippo getting its teeth brushed, and my first thought was, how did they get the hippo to keep its mouth so helpfully open? When I tried to brush my dogs' teeth, they would chew on the brush as if it were a chew toy. The info about Washington was new to me as well, though I knew the wooden teeth story. Fun!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dot - good to see you .. not sure why these snippets and mix all pop up - but they do! I have fun 'amassing' them ..

Dot as with JD .. I have no idea .. and would have thought they'd be chomping at the bit, so to speak (as your dogs did).. but I'm afraid your guess is probably better than mine.

Interesting you'd heard the wooden teeth story - but didn't know the real thing .. those days!!

Thanks - delighted it's amused you .. cheers Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

I knew about George Washington and his false teeth. But the cherry tree tale is false.

Sadly, in the US, most people don't have dental so they lose their teeth needlessly, making it harder to get work because they can't afford false ones. They're also more likely to get heart disease from the plaque.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa - I'm glad you knew .. but then I guess as a teacher, you probably would. The cherry tree tale too .. seems to be.

I'm sorry to hear that most people don't have dental insurance .. so when a tooth gets loose, and then lost - it's like a domino effect ... one after the other.

Interesting about the plaque effect too .. that I possibly knew about - but hadn't registered ..

Have a good weekend .. Hilary

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Hilary~
Wonderful post! I knew GW had false teeth, but thought they were made of wood, which sounded horrid! Thanks for the great details on how dentures were made back then. It was very interesting.

I loved the hippo info and that it made your Mum laugh. :)

Have a great weekend!

Mason Canyon said...

What a great post. I always learn something when I stop by here as well as have a laugh or two (like the hippo tooth brush). Have a great week and stay warm.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sharon .. good to see you here .. it's just so interesting to think - that things that we just chuck out now were all put to good purpose .. and probably have been used over the aeons.

I know - the thought of the hippo toothbrush in the first place, let alone it being used as such! is such fun!

We do laugh together .. thanks - enjoy Sunday .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mason .. thank you! .. a bit of light relief with an oversize toothbrush at this time of year just took my fancy .. I'm sure a few grandchildren will love the story too!

It is warmer for now - but that Arctic wind is due to come back this week .. - you too enjoy the seasonal cheer! Hilary

... Paige said...

poor ol' george with such a horrible thing to have to put in his mouth, heck for anyone to have to use.

Helen Ginger said...

I knew about Washington's false teeth. Just looking around today and seeing how many people have false teeth makes you realize that false or no teeth must have been quite rampant in Washington's day.

Ann Best said...

Such a "little" thing--teeth. And yet, how necessary they are both for eating and for "looks." Such interesting facts here about Geo. Washington's teeth! We ARE so fortunate today, expensive though dentistry can be, to have such good resources.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today. Hope you're having a good Sunday.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paige .. I agree .. but I'm not sure he'd have made President with only one tooth?! Interesting thought? Cheers Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Helen .. you're right .. there are still many people out there with a lot of full false teeth, or partial plates ..

Thinking what personal hygiene would have been like 250 years ago .. is tricky too! Thanks - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ann .. it was a pleasure popping by and seeing Jen so happy.

They are 'little' aren't they - but can cause a lot of headaches. We are lucky to be able to access dentists and get ours fixed ..

Good to see you .. and enjoy the rest of your Sunday .. Hilary

Talli Roland said...

I love the back story of how you came to post about this! Fascinating subject - I never knew that about George!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talli .. I love learning about 'back story' .. never knew those words meant this before!!

And so pleased you enjoyed the various snippets .. I enjoyed the different aspects of this post too ..

Good to see you - excellent post on the WebSplash notes arising out of your experiences with Amazon .. thanks for sharing with us .. Hilary

Joanne said...

Fascinating how far we've come, from using horse and donkey teeth, to laser work. My dentist no longer drills before filling a cavity, the work is done with laser, and is painless! What would George have thought of that!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joanne .. thanks .. it is isn't it? I'm not sure I've had a tooth filled recently .. but I know my dentist's technical skills have completely changed in the 18 years I've been using him .. and as you say what will we all say in the future?!

Thanks Hilary

Julie Musil said...

I thought Washington's teeth were wooden! That's terrible that I didn't know about this other type of falsies. And that hippo photo is hilarious!

alwayswellwithin.com said...

I really enjoyed this look at teeth! Especially the hippo's toothbrush. There are so many routine things to be grateful for like teeth. Thanks for the gratitude reminder! Oh, and that reminds me - it's time for a cleaning too.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Hilary,
This post was absolutely fascinating! When we visited Mount Vernon a couple of years ago, my middle son was captivated by Washington's false teeth. He didn't want to look at anything else - so funny! :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Julie .. amazing how the Chinese whisper about his wooden teeth has lingered! Well I'm glad I've posted about it .. letting the truth about 'ol George's' teeth out!!

Yes - I loved the hippo story & the picture ..

Thanks for following and have a great week .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sandra .. thanks.. all the little snippets seemed to slot into place and so I posted - especially as I had the hippo to give us a laugh!

You're right though - gratitude for our teeth and the health of them .. and being able to clean them easily and regularly.

Gratitude and love at this time of year for so many things .. thanks Sandra for the comment - have a good week .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shannon .. boys! I can imagine that .. constantly being drawn back to have another look!! Then remembered for many a day afterwards - as the highlight of their visit.

Delighted you enjoyed it & it brought back happy memories of your family visit to Washington's home.

Have a good week .. lots of carol singing? Cheers Hilary

Tony Single said...

Good heavens, I'm glad I've got most of my teeth then, and that I'm living in this day and age! This was an eye opener as always, Hilary! Phew! :P

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tony .. I know thank goodness for our dentists and looking after our teeth. It wasn't so long ago either! But me too .. glad I live in today's world .. thanks - good to see you .. enjoy the rest of the week. Hilary

Patricia Stoltey said...

Who knew a post on teeth could be so interesting? Nice job, Hilary. And here I'd always believed that George Washington's falsies were made of wood.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. you too?! I'm amazed at the lore that's stuck around re Washington's falsies .. and am glad I've posted about his real hippo-donkey-elephant-ex-human plated teeth!! (no wooden pegs!).

Thanks Patricia .. it's good to amuse! Cheers Hilary

Stephen Tremp said...

Hilary, I have a well-deserved award for you today!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Steve .. many thanks - really grateful .. I've popped in .. had computer hassles and am now off back over to collect .. it's a great honour to have .. wonderful present for this season! Cheers to you and everyone .. Hilary

The Exception said...

Hillary –
This is delightful! I did know about George Washington but I didn’t know about hippos! That is wonderful. Teeth and the introduction of dental hygiene was likely life changing for so many – and the progress that has been made in the last half century is amazing. Part of the reason I love your site is not only the information but I am never sure what you are going to tell me about next!
Stay warm!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

H TE .. I'm just glad some Americans didn't know these facts! I suddenly thought having posted it .. oh oh .. this was mistake - I'm telling my fellow bloggers things they already know! Fortunately not all!!

As you say dentists and dental hygiene has completely changed since the War .. and still so innovative - well as it should be, I suppose.

Good .. that's what I like to hear .. what next? .. you too - I gather the storms have reached the eastern States .. we're bracing (pun intended!) ourselves for another brush with the Arctic.

You too ... keep warm and enjoy the season of happiness and love .. Hilary

Karen Lange said...

Hilary, your posts are like a treasure box full of goodies! Wonderful stuff, thanks for taking the time to share it all. Congrats on the Breakthrough award:)
Blessings for your week,
Karen

Chase March said...

Hi Hilary,

Interesting post, as always.

I actually have false teeth. I knocked a few out a while back while skateboarding and had surgical implants put in. They feel just like real teeth.

Oh the progress we've made.

The only bad thing is that I'm still paying for them. Took out a loan to get them but it was so worth it!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. thanks so much .. glad you enjoyed the teething news!

I know - you too .. it's a great honour to have the meat and potatoes award .. and being able to share with other great bloggers .. you, Clarissa, Arlee and Ellie .. fun! Have a good rest of the week .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chase .. thanks - and you've got implants .. they must be better than plates of false teeth! & you're still skateboarding around?! That sounds like an unpleasant accident ..

As you say the progress that's been made .. despite the loan! Hope it's paid off soon ..

Good to see you .. Hilary

Short Poems said...

What a lovely post as always Hilary!
I enjoyed reading it :)
Congratulations on the Breakthrough award!
Warmly
Marinela x x

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Marinela .. thank you! So pleased you enjoyed the read .. and also re the Breakthrough Award - it's great to be acknowledged by other bloggers! Lovely seeing you here .. Hilary

Sibyl - alternaview said...

Hilary: Every time I read your posts I am reminded of how much fascinating information is out there. I am always so appreciative of all the research you do and information you share. I would have never known so much about teeth or George Washington's teeth ... very interesting.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sibyl .. lovely seeing you - you're right life is fun the way it interconnects and then provides me with the opportunity to do some 'lateral thinking' and produce unlikely amusing stories/ posts! Thanks - have a great build up to the festive season .. and enjoy - Hilary

KarenG said...

Can you imagine anyone being elected president or for anything really with only one tooth now?

Arlee Bird said...

As always another fine compendium. I'd always heard that George Washington had wooden teeth, but really that wouldn't make that much sense and the explanation you give is much more logical.
I've been fortunate with my teeth so far-- a few caps, but so far no false teeth. I hate going to the dentist though.

Happy holidays!

Lee
Tossing It Out

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. well that's one thing I thought about - even then! So I'm sure having his teeth fixed made a lot of difference ..

.. I wonder what the laudanum did?!

No way - toothless wonder as a President .. not = I think! Thanks great thoughts .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee .. and another 'biting the dust re wooden teeth'! Isn't it interesting the lore that is inaccurate lives on .. shows us about Chinese whispers?!

Me too .. but actually I don't mind going to the dentist - but not like my osteopath .. who has a forensic affinity to finding things out?!

You too - have a good festive time with family and friends .. Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

Hey! It's so great Vered has her new gravatar. Who knew there was so much beauty behind those dark glasses she often wears?

I have a hippo to clean my teeth, a friend of Blue Bunny's. He failed dental school, but he still can clean some teeth like a whiz!!

xoxo

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. yes - Vered's gravatar is great and your little right eye peering out! Looks good .. ah BB's gathering large wild animals is he now - yeah probably lots of hippos down by the river?!

Cheers - great to see you here .. enjoy the weekend festivities - Hilary

Ellen aka Ella said...

I can't imagine, seriously how much pain one would be in with false teeth like George! Fun post, I like the way you tied it together. Bothered we change the Hippo's diet...why?! I love hearing about the stalactites, etc beautiful line, "then they shine like underground stars". They sure are beautiful~

It is funny how co-incidences aligned together like teeth to bring you to this post~ I loved it!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

HI Ella .. thank you - I too think George's pain must have been unbearable! I'm sure the Hippo's diet is the best they can do in the circumstances - they're getting their greens! & in the wild they graze the grasses at night - they're herbivores: hence fruit and veg.

Oh good .. so pleased you liked my phrase .. they shine like underground stars - when describing the stalactites!

So pleased these little tie-ins occur .. and delighted to have your comment ..

Hope you're not too deep in snow & can enjoy the wintry weather .. it's threatening here (Sussex) .. enjoy the festivities .. Hilary

Soul Dipper said...

Hilary, when my dear ol' mom was hospital bound after a stroke, I was dismayed that her teeth had been lost. There was no way she would have tolerated any dental attention - she wouldn't even let the staff come near her with a pair of scissors to cut her hair!

So, my mom spent the last 4 or 5 years eating food specially prepared for her. Thank goodness she was not focusing on presentation!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Amy .. Mum's still got her teeth, though she can't eat or drink & is PEG fed and has now been bedridden for 3 years .. her mouth is sorted out .. and I take kitchen scissors to her hair .. it's pretty ramshackle - but at least it's cut .. which is my main challenge. Like your Mama .. my Ma doesn't look at herself anymore .. one doctor said she looked very attractive and he was right .. that day she did - serene and happy, with a pretty primrose coloured nightie on ..

It's good to exchange thoughts on our dear ol' ones .. with a hug or two and thoughts .. Hilary

Liara Covert said...

Consider teeth are imagined into being and can be erased through the power of mind just as easily. One could also revert to a liquid diet and forget teeth exist. Options are infinite.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. I should think that might be likely - as we use our teeth so little now-a-days .. options are infinite aren't they.

Have a good week - Hilary

Stephen Tremp said...

Happy Holidays to you and yours Hilary ... I'll have to double back to read your post as the rains are flooding my yard with six inches of water. They should stop later today but we've had like a week straight of rain here.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Steve .. that sounds more important than commenting - well would be to me. Interesting your weather is 'strange' too ..

We're in freezing fog - but considerably better off than further north .. thank goodness.

Merry Christmas to you and your family .. cheers Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

Love the hippo!
I can't imagine what it would be like to have false teeth in Washington's day. How uncomfortable they must have been!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz - thanks for coming over here .. I had to put the hippo snippet in = such fun!

I too hate to think about false teeth at any stage of life, let alone in the late 1700s ... crippling and no wonder he took laudanum ..

Good to see you - cheers Hilary