Phone (513) 251-5500
June 30th, 2018

Oral Health Trivia: Our Founding Fathers Edition

Category: cincinnati dentist

Ah, the 4th of July is upon us! On July 4th, our Continental Congress—that is, the delegates from the Thirteen Colonies—came together and adopted the Declaration of Independence… Let’s take a look back.

Looking Back at Our History

According to historians, Richard Henry Lee is the one who is presented the now-famous resolution. He pronounced:

“Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

The Declaration that was signed by our Founding Fathers is now housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and—as you know—we celebrate July 4 as a national holiday. So who were the Founding Fathers, anyway?

what our founding fathers thought of their health hagen dental

Our Founding Fathers: Did They Value Their Health?

There were 7 key people we now call the “Founding Fathers” of our nation That included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

All of these men were heavily involved in our nation’s early government. (Of course Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison were Presidents.)

So we know they were visionaries and great leaders…but what was the state of their health like? And what was dental care like at that time?

Let’s take a look at two of our Founding Father’s stances on health to get a better idea of that answer!

founding fathers and their oral health hagen dental practice cincinnati

Thomas Jefferson

It’s said that Jefferson was a strong supporter of health. Historians say he believed that good health was essential to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, we know these three things as the values that were established, pronounced, and celebrated in the Declaration of Independence, too.

It’s also reported that Jefferson would consistently talk about health being a natural right for people. He would state that people need to be healthy so that they can in turn protect the other values including liberty and equality. Perhaps he was a bit ahead of his time when it came to the value he had in health.

He is quotes as saying, “You may promise yourself everything – but [without] health, […] there is no happiness. An attention to health then should take place of every other object” (1).

George Washington

It’s said that Washington had several diseases during his lifetime, which would not have been uncommon for that time. At one point, he pointed towards depression stemming from an illness he had while in the army (3).

He also once wrote to a colleague: “Disorders oftentimes [sic], are easier prevented than cured, and while you are in the way to re-establish your health, (on which I congratulate you) it is better to use preventatives, than alternatives…” (3).

That quote suggests that just like Jefferson, he really knew the value of health…and the value of preventative health measures.

Mount Vernon, the plantation house of Washington, is now a very popular historical landmark. One part of that historical landmark that continues to get a lot of attention is an exhibit that has Washington’s dentures on display!

That’s right: the handmade prosthesis that consists of an upper and lower set of teeth is displayed in a glass case for all to see! People come from across the nation, and many are quite surprised at what they see: a set of famous choppers from our first President.

Nonetheless, the false teeth are notable because it reminds us that—even if our Founding Father’s knew the value of health—the state of oral care and dentistry at that time was far different than it is today (2).

Washington’s dentures were made of metal, ivory, and real teeth (both animal and human). In other words, despite the myth that he had wooden teeth, he didn’t actually have wooden teeth…but he did in fact experience a good deal of teeth-related issues.

Interesting enough, when Washington was sworn into office as the first President of the United States, he was experiencing a bit of mouth pain, according to historians. In fact, he had swollen, burning gums!

It’s even said that when his dentures would open and shut, they would clack and creak! Ouch…

At that time, the pain was so bad it’s said that he took pain killers (of that age) for this constant pain he experienced. It’s interesting because Presidents of that time were never supposed to show any sort of weakness or signs of pain. It’s safe to say he may not have shared the pain with many people!

Oral Health Has Come A Long Way

Oral health has really come a long way. It’s not just toothbrushes or toothpaste, but it’s all the tools we have to prevent disease and other issues, and to help you stay healthy in general. Let us know if you are interested in setting up your next appointment with us. We’d be glad to meet you and your family! Give us a call today at (513) 251-5500.

Sources

  1. http://familiesusa.org/blog/thomas-jefferson-a-founding-father-weighs-in-on-health-care
  2. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/george-washington-wooden-teeth/
  3. https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/washingtons-views-on-health/

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