The Health of the Presidents:  Myth, Mystery, Medicine

Dr. Daliah

By Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP

Myth:  George Washington’s teeth were never made of wood

 Mystery:  Would JFK have lived if he wasn’t wearing a back brace during his assassination?  Who took over when Woodrow Wilson suffered a massive stroke?

 Medicine:  Why did it take Lincoln to die 11 hours after his mortal gun shot wound?

 

 George Washington – I cannot tell a lie….

It is believed that George Washington suffered from diphtheria, tuberculosis, malaria, smallpox, dysentery, possible sterility, tonsillitis, and epiglottitis.  He appeared to have  many issues with the back of his throat.  Syphilis has been debated but then again many people at the time had syphilis (Abraham Lincoln supposedly had syphilis when he was younger).

George Washington had one original tooth left by the time he became president.

His teeth were not made of wood…..instead made of hippopotamus/walrus/elephant ivory or transplanted teeth.

gw-teethmountvernon.org

The tooth loss could have been from…

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Health of the Presidents:  Myth, Mystery, Medicine

  1. Everybody had syphilis back then, that’s why they wore those fugly wigs.

    • It was interesting to look that one up, Adrienne, as I never knew previously why men (and not women) wore those powdered wigs in the 1700s. The disease factor didn’t make sense to me, because there was plenty of that long after folks stopped wearing them in the 1800s.

      It seems to have been just fashion / vanity, to cover up graying or balding hair in men. It was a mark of higher social status. Women powdered their hair similarly white to match, and added extensions. In 1795 Britain added a special tax on the white powder used for men’s wigs, and by women on their hair, and the fashion fell rapidly out of favor.

      Thanks for inspiring my education!

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