Full lower denture, 1801-1860.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This lower denture set is made of elephant ivory with human anteriors. It shows caries (decay) in both the teeth and plate. The first false teeth were made by the Etruscans as long ago as 700 BC, but the difficulties of decay and poor fitting did not begin to be overcome until the late 18th century. The age of these English dentures suggests that the human teeth used may have been amongst the thousands removed from corpses left on the battlefield of Waterloo. The flood of teeth onto the market after that battle was so huge that dentures made from such second-hand teeth acquired a new name: Waterloo teeth.