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Full upper and lower dentures, 1801-1870.

Full upper and lower dentures, 1801-1870.
2 8 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 20cm


A set of dentures made of ivory with composition plate and posteriors, and human anteriors with spring attachments. They show extreme discolouration. 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. Ivory was commonly used for making false teeth, although from the late 18th century porcelain was increasingly favoured as it did not decay. The age of these dentures suggests that the teeth 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.

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© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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