Porcelain teeth existed prior to the 19th century as they were an invention of the French in the 18th century. (5) However, the advancements of American dentists catapulted porcelain teeth towards general use by 1838. (6) By this point in time, porcelain teeth possessed a number of advantages over animal substance teeth. Appearance-wise, porcelain teeth more closely resembled natural teeth. Porcelain teeth were also resistant to the chemical agents of the mouth, hence the moniker “incorruptible teeth”.
They were less prone to the rapid deterioration, smell and discoloring issues that plagued animal substance teeth. Moreover, porcelain teeth more easily attached to dental plates and were worn with greater comfort and convenience. (2) (11) Lastly, porcelain teeth lasted longer and were easily repaired in case of damage. (6) Porcelain teeth were composed of two portions- the enamel, and the body/base. (11) Like with natural teeth, the enamel forms the outer layer of the artificial tooth, while the “body” or “base” refers to the rest of the artificial tooth, equivalent to the dentin in a natural tooth. The body was composed of silex, feldspar, and kaolin, while the enamel portion of the tooth was made from feldspar. (11) (6)
Silica is a white powder (9) that constitutes many mineral formations, such as quartz and flint. (11) Silica gave stability and firmness to porcelain teeth. Because silica kept the other materials together, it preserved the molded form of the teeth when they were exposed to high temperatures during the firing process in artificial teeth construction. (12) Silica was prepared for use by being exposed to white heat before being immersed in water. Then, the substance was grounded using mortar and pestle. (9)
Feldspar is similarly found in crystalized forms, often combined with another mineral. (11) Feldspar formed the body portion of an artificial tooth and as such was a powerful medium for connecting the silica and kaolin. (9) Like silica, feldspar was prepared for denture construction purposes by being broken into smaller pieces and then grounded in a mortar. (9) Lastly, kaolin is a clay formed from silica and alumina and provided porcelain teeth their strength. (12) Kaolin was prepared for this purpose by being washed in water before being dried. (9)