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Animal Substances Teeth

Throughout the 19th century, teeth created from animal substances such as ivory, sea-horse bone, human teeth etc. waned in popularity, thought they did still see some use. (2) The prevailing wisdom for the dentists in the second half of the 19th century was to create “porcelain” teeth, also called “incorruptible teeth” on account of their resistance to deterioration and longevity. (11) Porcelain teeth were created from minerals as opposed to animal material and were considered superior due to the aforementioned resistances and because they more accurately imitated natural teeth. (2) (11)

Human Teeth

Human teeth were difficult to procure, and healthy human teeth were even harder to come by. Additionally,, they could be destroyed or rendered unusable within months in serious cases. A human tooth used in the construction of dentures decayed more quickly than a natural human tooth because they lacked the same physiological connection to the body which sustains natural teeth over time. (11)

Despite these drawbacks, human teeth made for the best artificial dentures from the different “animal substances” that were employed in denture construction. (6) Use of human teeth declined in part because of the associated stigma. There was a widespread belief that transplanting teeth could also bring over the diseases from their previous owner, though dentists at this time believed that the purification process for transplanted human teeth nullified any such dangers. (11)

Trubyte teeth for vulcanite plates (human teeth).png

Human Teeth

Cattle Teeth

Another animal substance used for the creation of artificial teeth was cattle teeth. With some altercations, cattle teeth could be made to resemble human teeth. Being less dense then human teeth, cattle substitutes were more vulnerable to deterioration through interaction with any mouth chemicals or substances. Cattle teeth were primarily used for cases that called for short artificial teeth, which diminished their applicability to a wider range of cases. (11)

history of dentistry (Set of upper and lower teeth made of ivory and held in place).png

Ivory dentures


Elephant or hippopotamus ivory was another once-popular choice for artificial teeth, and perhaps the longest-running material for dentures, having seen use since antiquity. From all the animal substances, this one was the most contentious due to a number of issues. Teeth made from hippopotamus and elephant tusk were liable to rapid decay, (11) and by a certain point in their deterioration, they emitted a terrible odor. (1) Elephant’s tusk was a worse material for dentures than hippopotamus tusk because they more easily absorbed fluids and chemicals in the mouth, thus speeding up breakdown. (11)

Materials used for Artificial Teeth
Animal Substances Teeth