In honor of Presidents’ Day week, part two of our look at the history of how our leaders aching teeth, weird dentures, and oral health have shaped the nation in their own small ways. The dental problems of U.S. presidents have led to grumpiness, missed banquets and even, in the opinion of some experts, premature death.
Some dental authorities also believe that Theodore Roosevelt`s (September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909) death in 1919 was hastened by an abcessed tooth suffered some years before. While the evidence is inconclusive, it is clear that oral misadventures can harm overall health.
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) a nervous lad who was lonely at boarding school, often wrote to his doting mother, complaining of oral problems, such as gum boils. He had a lot of orthodontic work done and wore braces. As an adult he had a partial denture, which he apparently misplaced frequently.
Harry Truman (April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953) had many fillings, but he was a firm believer in regular dental checkups every year, and made small talk with his dentist. Something of a joker, he once removed a temporary crown with his tongue and gave a gap-toothed smile, astonishing reporters.
But the age of awesome Presidential smiles really launched with John Kennedy (January 20,1961 – November 22, 1963) who a Kennedy family dentist reported had pretty good teeth, with a jacket crown on a central incisor.
Jimmy Carter chose to remain silent, but we know Carter was good about keeping his teeth in repair, perhaps even overzealous about flossing. His mother, Lillian, noted that “my son`s teeth are excellent, in fact, perfect.”
These days, he said, each incoming president gets to pick a personal dentist, usually from military ranks, but few people, even in the White House, know that there is a dental office, located in a White House subbasement, to which presidents can go to for quick, and private, dental work. Despite this, U.S. presidents typically get their dental care at the Walter Reed Medical Center, by a Navy dentist, in Bethesda, Maryland.