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THE TEETH OF WATERLOO


by Xavier Riaud(*), FINS

 

«During centuries, it was seen as normal to extract teeth from soldiers on the battlefield. War times helped supplying with a great quantity of teeth, commonly known as “The teeth of Waterloo”. As a great majority of the dead soldiers had passed away at a young age, those teeth were generally of a higher quality than the human teeth of the usual circuit (Craft, 2009). 
Therefore, the teeth of the 50,000 soldiers who had died on the battlefield of Waterloo on June 12, 1815 were extracted and used for the making of dentures known as “The teeth of Waterloo”. Human teeth were used until 1860 and were soon replaced by porcelain dental veneers (FDI, no date). Indeed, they had already been used on soldiers of the American War of Independence (1775-1783). Hence, those saved teeth helped restoring the mouth of numerous Englishmen during the Regency and even afterwards (Woodforde, 1968; Genet & Ruggiu, 2007).
Claudius Ash (1792-1854) was a dental manufacturer living in Westminster. He was coming from a family who was highly involved in the dental art since his father was already a goldsmith working with gold and silver for dental purposes. Until 1820, the teeth of dead soldiers were extracted from their mouths and contributed to the manufacture of dental sets. From 1820, Ash used a more noble material: porcelain (Woodforde, 1968).

 

Bibliography:
Craft Naomi, Le petit livre des grandes découvertes médicales [The small book on great medical discoveries], Dunod (ed.), Paris, 2009, p. 35.
World Dental Federation (FDI), no date.
Genet Jean-Philippe & Ruggiu François-Joseph, Les idées passent-elles la Manche ? [Do ideas cross the Channel], Presses de l’Université Paris Sorbonne, 2007.
Woodforde J., The strange story of false teeth, Routledge & Kegan Paul (ed.), Londres, 1968.

 

(*) Dental Surgeon, Doctor in Epistemology, History of Sciences and Techniques, Laureate and Associate member of the French Dental Academy.