Selling of Teeth

It had been a common practice of many poorer individuals or anyone who needed extra money centuries ago to sell some of their teeth for money to a dentist. The teeth would be used in dentures or as a tooth replacement for another person.

There was a ledger kept by General George Washington at Mount Vernon dated May 8, 1784 showing he paid cash, 6 pounds and 2, to “Negros for 9 teeth on Acct of Dr. Lemoin”. It does not state if the teeth would be used by George, a family member or any patient of Dr. Lemoin. The negroes Washington referred to were his own Mount Vernon slaves.

This Dr. Lemoin was a dentist with the full name of Jean Pierre Le Mayeur. He came from France to New York during the American Revolution. Washington had known Le Mayeur for some time and he had visited Mount Vernon often.

As for George’s own set of dentures, ones from the 1790s, were a full set of dentures. Upper and lower plates with lead bases connected by silver alloy springs. Teeth are fixed to the plates by a connecting metal rod. The teeth were of a mixture of horse / cow teeth, ivory and human teeth. The dentures did require frequent adjusting to function naturally and he repeatedly sent them to his dentist, Dr. John Greenwood in NYC.

Any ancestors you know of that had teeth problems??

Photos: 1784 ledger; transcription of the ledger and Washington’s 1790 dentures.

Related Blogs:

Washington’s Genealogy

Facts About George Washington

Baby Tooth Survey

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