A Brief History of Presidential Smiles

The third Monday in February is the strangest of all Federal holidays. We the People are not in agreement over what we are celebrating, who we are honoring, or even how to spell the name of the holiday (President’s Day/Presidents’ Day/Presidents Day).

According to the Federal Government’s calendar, we’re celebrating Washington’s Birthday.  But Federal holidays apply only to the federal government and the District of Columbia; Congress has never declared a national holiday that is binding in all states and so each state  gets to decide what legal holidays residents will celebrate.

On Presidents’ Day several states specifically honor Washington, who was born Feb. 22. In Virginia, Washington’s home state, the holiday is called George Washington’s Day. In other states, Washington and Abraham Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12, are the birthday boys who are being honored. Some states honor Washington and Thomas Jefferson – in Alabama, they’ll be celebrating “Washington and Jefferson Day” on Monday (in case you’re wondering, Jefferson was born on April 13). In Arkansas, it’s George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day. Elsewhere in the country, all of the presidents are honored.

Presidential Dental Care

Here at DentalPlans.com, on Presidents’ Day, our thoughts turn to the history of dental care. Our leaders aching teeth, weird dentures, and oral health have shaped the nation in their own small ways.

George Washington (July 1, 1789 – March 4, 1797) started having problems with his teeth in his early 20s. Despite spending much money on toothbrushes, “teeth scrapers,” files, and cleaning solutions, by the mid-1700s Washington was buying human teeth (a common activity among the 18th century well-to-do, who presented their finds to their dentist rather than utilizing the more common animal teeth in their dentures.), extracting his own molars, and trying to find a pair of dentures that actually fit. At his inauguration in 1789, Washington had only one working tooth. Sadly, his spring-fit dentures creaked loudly and snapped open whenever he smiled or ate, an uncomfortable experience for the president and anyone who happened to be around him.

John Adams (March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801) also lost all of his teeth at a relatively early age but refused to wear the uncomfortable, ill-fitting dentures of the time.  Due to his lisp, he avoided talking unless he absolutely had to say something- though some historical records suggest he was simply an introvert.

Abraham Lincoln (March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865) lost a piece of his jaw bone during a failed tooth extraction, leading to his lifelong terror of dentists. He was among the first civilians to use chloroform as a medical anesthetic, from a bottle he acquired and administered to himself whenever he really had to see a dentist.

Andrew Johnson’s (April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869) bad teeth- which reportedly made him drool – were probably the least of his many problems. He was the first Vice President to take over the presidency because of an assassination and the first American president to be impeached by Congress.

Ulysses S. Grant (March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877) frequently carried only a toothbrush with him when he went to battle.

John Quincy Adams (March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829) had severe dental problems after being dosed with mercury for a mild case of smallpox. He had started smoking at age eight, which also didn’t help his teeth.

Woodrow Wilson’s (March 4, 1913 – March 4, 1921) dental problems may have contributed to or even caused the stroke he suffered in 1919. Strokes, along with heart disease and other systematic diseases, have been linked to poor oral hygiene.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945) wore braces on his teeth as a child and as an adult had a partial denture, which he apparently misplaced frequently. Harry Truman (April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953) was a firm believer in regular dental checkups. But the age of awesome Presidential smiles really launched with John Kennedy (January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963) and has carried through to this day, with the brief exception of George H. W. Bush ( January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993) who didn’t avail himself of modern dental care.

Bush aside, the gleaming smiles of our Presidents may be due to the private dental office, tucked away in a White House subbasement, for presidential use.  Despite this, U.S. presidents typically get their dental care at the Walter Reed Medical Center, by a Navy dentist, in Bethesda, Maryland.

You may not be the leader of the nation, but a presidential smile can be yours thanks to the discounts you’ll receive on quality dental care with a dental savings plan. To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.

 

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