Why is there a concrete block full of teeth?
In the small town of Elkhart there is an odd memorial. The local dentist, Dr. Joe Stamp, was heartbroken when his dog Prince died. Instead a the normal plaque or grave stone, he opted to mix all the teeth he had pulled from his years of practicing into a 3 foot high block of concrete and leave it in town. The block looks normal, apparently, until you get close to it. Only then are you able to see the hundreds of human teeth, all different shapes and sizes, sticking out. As odd as it is, the block has become a beloved part of the town. Kids play on, sometimes even pulling teeth out of it. Adults point it out to visitors, and enterprising townsfolk have chipped away at it over the years looking for gold teeth, but none have been found yet.
George Washington may have used human teeth in his dentures!
This one is tough to believe because as children we were all taught George had a famously uncomfortable set of wooden dentures. While he did have dentures, and they were famously uncomfortable, they were not made of wood. Previously, they were thought to be made out of various animal’s teeth, such as cows and sheep. However, a recent re-examination of the archives held at Mt. Vernon, Washington’s home, shows an expense for “nine human teeth”. He spent 122 shillings on the teeth, but it is unclear whether or not he ever had dentures made with them.
So where did the teeth come from? Back in the late 1700s it was common practice for slaves to sell their teeth to dentists. For nine teeth, 122 shillings was a good deal. Fortunately, modern dentistry has found ways around using real human teeth, but it remains an interesting question whether or not George Washington ever used the teeth he bought.
Mayans would bejewel their teeth!
The ancient Mayans, inhabiting Central America when the first conquistadors came over from Europe, had an odd custom of setting gem stones into their teeth. They would drill little holes into the surface of their teeth, careful not to go too deep and damage the pulp, and fit semi-precious stones into the indentations. Next they would cement the stones in place with natural glue, which did such a good job keeping the stones set that many skeletons recovered today still have their original gems intact.
This tradition was akin to getting a tattoo today. It was a way to express yourself and decorate your body. Anyone was allowed to do it, from the poorest peasants, to the priests, to the royalty. The practice was fairly common, with some estimating that as much as 50% of the population had altered their teeth at the height of the trends popularity. Looking at pictures of the Mayans’ bejeweled teeth you cannot help be but be reminded of the current fashion trend of ‘grills’. The hip-hop community has experimented with putting jewels and gold in their mouths, in the form of expensive veneers. While most of them are removable, a few rappers have had them implanted permanently. That is dedication to your teeth!
Dr. Mike Malone and his team practice expert cosmetic dentistry in Lafayette, LA. Dr. Malone is the former president and current accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is also the official Cosmetic Dentist of the Miss Louisiana USA and Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageants. Check out his website for more information.