Hard-bitten display for World Smile Day
6 to 20 October 2006 (CLOSED)
For World Smile Day on Friday 6 October, an extraordinary set of 18th Century dentures has gone on public display for the first time at Museum of London.
The 200-year old set of false teeth belonged to Arthur Richard Dillon (1721-1806), Archbishop of Narbonne in France.
Archaeologists discovered them, still snugly fitting in his mouth, when they opened his coffin in London’s St Pancras graveyard during excavations in advance of construction work at the Channel Tunnel Rail Link’s new London terminus.
Made of porcelain with gold springs, and individually crafted for a perfect fit, dentures such as these were invented in France in the 1770s. Dillon possibly bought them from the celebrated Parisian dentist, Nicholas De Chemant, before fleeing to England at the time of the Revolution.
This unique archaeological discovery is a poignant memento of a leading and colourful figure in the French émigré community.
Museum of London specialist Natasha Powers, working with Gifford Archaeology on the project, has written a paper on the teeth for the latest edition of the British Dental Journal. She said:
“These unique artefacts reflect a pivotal time in dental history, with the adoption of new materials and methods of manufacture. They also represent a period of significant social and economic change for the upper echelons of French society.”