The French are credited with pioneering early European dental prosthesis. Ambroise Pare, a barber-dentist in service of the French Monarch Charles IX circa 1579, constructed dentures of gold-and-silver bases. (1) In 1622, another French physician and dentist named Urbain Hemard constructed dentures from ivory. The father of modern dentistry, Pierre Fauchard, dabbled in dental prosthesis as well. In 1737, Fauchard constructed a full set of upper dentures for a noblewoman. These dentures were set in place using springs. He also wrote about creating a full set of dentures that lasted the patient 24 years. (5) Though Fauchard’s dentures were primarily made from animal bone. he suggested that artificial teeth could be made from porcelain in 1728. However, it would take many years before this suggestion bore fruit. (1)
In the 1770s, Alexis Duchateau of the Sr. Germain Apothecary wore dentures made of ivory and natural teeth but was dissatisfied with them due to deterioration and the resulting odors that emanated from these dentures. In 1774, Duchateau contracted a Paris-based porcelain manufacturer called Guerhard (6) to create porcelain dentures. Though a set was eventually created, it was not without defects and proved unsatisfactory for Duchateau. (5) Afterwards, Duchateau collaborated with the dentist Nicolas Dubois de Chémant to successfully create superior porcelain-based dentures. (5) Duchateau wanted to start a business based on porcelain dentures but he lacked the dentistry know-how and became discouraged.
De Chémant on the other hand continued this work, and bought from Duchateau the right to create porcelain dentures. (5) De Chémant brought the porcelain method to the attention of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris and the French Academy of Science by 1789, the latter of which appointed a committee to examine this invention. (7) The committee responded favorably, and highlighted areas where porcelain teeth could be improved. De Chémant’s subsequent iterations improved the porcelain teeth considerably, and he ended up obtaining an inventor’s patent from Louis XVI for his porcelain dentures. (7) (1)