Tales from the Operatory Part VIII: Presidential Teeth

We’ve talked about George Washington’s wooden teeth and how they were actually ivory. We’ve talked about Joseph Biden’s root canal and US Grant’s oral cancer. Politicians need a strong smile and a firm handshake while they gladhand voters, kiss babies and smile for the camera.

Teddy Roosevelt: The Smiling President

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the youngest president ever, was known for his teeth, nicknamed the “smiling president.” His name is also where the name Teddy Bear came from after he refused to shoot a tied-up bear that had been chased by hounds and clubbed as he deemed it unsportsmanlike. A toy manufacturer created a cuddle bear and named it Teddy Bear. It is difficult finding a picture of Teddy Roosevelt without an ear-to-ear smile exposing his teeth. He was actually reported as the first president who smiled because he was typically photographed and illustrated with his toothy grin on his face. His smile was often described as a double row of teeth. He had full dentition which was not common during that era.

Roosevelt’s Death and a Common Misconception

When Teddy Roosevelt died at age 60, an article was written that his death was suspected to be from an endodontically treated tooth that was still infected and thus septic. However, that supposition was incorrect as he died from a clot breaking loose and entering his lungs – a pulmonary embolism.

Dental Anxieties and Solutions: From Lincoln to Jefferson

Abraham Lincoln had intense dental anxiety after he had a tooth extraction that left him with a broken jaw. After avoiding the dentist for years, he was forced to come in due to a tooth hurting so much he had to seek help from a dentist. He brought in his own chloroform to knock himself out in the dental chair during the procedure. Obviously, this was before the discovery of Novocain or the use of nitrous oxide. It is suspected he only saw a dentist 4 times.

Thomas Jefferson was very proud of his teeth, writing a friend at the age of 75 stating “I have not yet lost a tooth to age.”

From Adams to Cleveland: A History of Dental Choices

John Adams never sought preventative care from a dentist. It is rumored he began smoking at age 8 and continued on into adulthood. This caused him to lose all his teeth. Rather than get dentures as George Washington did, he embraced his toothless smile and spoke with a lisp.

Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president, had an epithelioma on the roof of his mouth during his second term in office. This lesion is described as “an ulcerative surface nearly as large as a quarter with cauliflower granulations and crater edges with at least one sinus extending to bone, which is apparently roughened.” The country was in the midst of the depression and did not wish to cause widespread panic with an announcement of requiring surgery. Therefore, he concocted a scheme for a secret surgery disguised as a vacation cruise on his friend’s yacht. The surgeries affected his mouth but announcing he had two teeth removed kept the press from becoming suspicious.

Dental Care in the White House

Thanks to President Herbert Hoover, the White House had a dental office installed in the basement. With the busy time schedule a president needs to keep, he can’t neglect his teeth nor can he wait for a dental appointment. The original office was simple. Today it has the latest equipment, digital X-rays, and everything you’d expect from a modern dental office.

Your Dental Care is Our Priority

While your schedule is busy, we aren’t located in your basement, but we are nearby, open seven days a week with late hours, and have all the specialties represented, we’re able to treat you like the VIP you are, able to see you in one day, the same day, seven days a week. Come to Columbia Dental where we want to help you care for your teeth. Call 860-645-0111 to make your appointment today.

We’re coming to the last 4 months of the year and you will want to make sure you use all the benefits you’re entitled to and not leave anything on the table.

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