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Partial upper and lower dentures, Europe, 1858-1880

These dentures are made from aluminium plates held together with gold pins. The teeth are a mixture: some are porcelain and others real human teeth. The real ones are those at the front and may have come from living donors. Alternatively, they may have come from a corpse. One major source of teeth in the early 1800s was the battlefields of Europe. After a battle, the dead were not only stripped of clothing and valuable personal possessions, they could also lose their teeth, prised out in their thousands by men who recognised the value of this human commodity. So many teeth were removed for this reason following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 that the market was flooded, and dentures that included human teeth became known as ‘Waterloo teeth’. This set is likely to have been made for a wealthy individual who had lost some teeth through age, illness or injury.

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    Glossary: human remains

    term created as part of the NMSI human remains policy (from April 2007); Other terms used are 'blood' and 'human hair'

    Glossary: dentistry

    The study, treatment and management of diseases affecting the mouth, jaws, gums, teeth and their supporting tissues.

    Glossary: denture

    A replacement tooth, or set of teeth that are usually removable.