In the middle ages, dental-related health issues occupied a morbid dimension of the public imagination. A then-popular proverb stated "that a bad tooth was considered, of all things, the most desirable to be rid of", indicating the degree to which dental-related health problems were feared. (1) Dentures, or dental prostheses, are the remedy for the most severe cases of dental decay and diseases. When a person lost a number of teeth as to significantly impair the related functions, or if the teeth’s deterioration necessitated removal, dentures were required to restore functions such as eating and speech. (2) (3) Dentures never fully replaced the natural teeth in appearance, comfort, or functionality which is why an increasing amount of attention was paid to oral health and hygiene at the turn of the 19th century. Dentists strongly advocated oral health prevention techniques including cleaning/taking care of teeth in youth and having dental caries filled immediately when present. (2) Nonetheless, due to neglect, socioeconomic barriers, or improper oral health advice, many persons at this time still needed dentures. (4)
Dental prosthesis finds its origins in classical civilizations such as Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. However, much of this knowledge was lost during the middle ages, until a revival of the craft in the early modern period. (1) The 19th century in particular featured significant innovations and advancements in dental prosthesis, featuring techniques and tools that contributed to their modern development. This exhibition is compiled from dental prosthesis online collections from 1797 to 1922 at the University of Toronto Dentistry Library, and highlights key facts about dentures both during and before this period. This exhibition will firstly summarize key findings relating to the progression of dental prosthesis in antiquity and the early modern era. Then, this exhibition will explore the types of dentures, impression taking methods, and denture materials of the 19th century.