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Tooth Is Stranger Than Fiction

George Washington's only complete set of dentures, made out of lead, human teeth, cow teeth and elephant ivory, is displayed at The Minnesota History Center. Doesn't it make your mouth hurt to look at the dentures?

© Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune

Now that we've met some loyal patriots, let's turn to the de facto father of the United States, George Washington. Big-time military general, first president and the subject of thousands of biographies and studies, Washington tends to pique everyone's interest. But that doesn't mean we still can't learn a thing or two about him. Or, more specifically, his face.

A lot of us have heard that Washington wore wooden teeth -- a persistent myth, turns out. However, Washington wasn't exactly blessed with a set of Hollywood chompers. (Supposedly, he cracked brazil nuts between his teeth, which can't have helped.) By the time he was president, he had a grand total of one natural tooth [source: Etter].

He did wear dentures, made from ivory, gold, lead -- and even some real human and cow teeth [source: Mount Vernon Ladies Association]. But that glamorous grill proved to be extremely uncomfortable, causing his mouth to bulge out painfully. It caused so much discomfort that Washington regularly took laudanum (a tincture including opium) to ease the pain [source: Smithsonian Institute].

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