history-of-dentistry

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Nicolas DuBois de Chémant (1753-1824) was instrumental in the development of artificial teeth.  For centuries, missing teeth were replaced either by teeth taken from humans or animals, or false teeth were carved out of an organic substance such as ivory.  This finally began to change in the 18th century, when French practitioners began to consider fashioning artificial teeth out of enamel in earnest.  In 1774 the apothecary Alexis Duchâteau, who was disgusted by the odor of his own ivory dentures, managed to create teeth made from porcelain; however, his inexperience with actual dentistry prevented him from fully realizing his goal of creating porcelain dentures for a wide market.  His efforts were still acknowledged by the Parisian Royal Academy of Surgeons in 1776.

 De Chémant, who was one of the dentists initially consulted by Duchâteau, continued to persist in crafting functional mineral teeth.  Working at the Sèvres porcelain factory, he experimented with the formula until he had created dentures that were both an acceptable color and did not shrink excessively during firing.  He submitted the results to the Academy of Surgery in Paris in 1789, who declared mineral teeth to be unhealthy.  Fortunately for de Chémant, the Royal Academy of Sciences was much more receptive to his work and provided a favorable report; King Louis XVI also granted him a patent that granted him the sole right to create mineral teeth for the next fifteen years.

 His treatise on artificial teeth, Dissertation sur les avantages des nouvelles dents, was published in Paris in 1788.  The McKellops collection at the Becker Library holds the English translation published in 1797.