Hippopotamus ivory teeth, lower denture on stand, England, 1795

1795 in England

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Background: A71862, Lower denture of hippopotamus ivory, on stand. Foreground: A71861, Upper denture, hippopotamus
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Lower denture of hippopotamus ivory, on ceramic stand

These carefully carved dentures show the best dentists produced fine work. This is denser than both elephant and walrus ivory. It is more hardwearing and appropriate for dental use. Ivory was difficult to clean. It deteriorated over time and smelt unpleasant. Only wealthy patients such as royalty and the upper classes could afford ivory dentures.

The porcelain display holders are carved with the motif of the Prince of Wales’ feathers. They are sometimes called Ruspini holders, after Bartholomew Ruspini (1728-1813). He trained as a dentist in France and moved to London in 1766. His patients included the Prince of Wales, later King George IV. The lower dentures (A71862) are pictured here with their upper denture partners (A71861).


Object Number:
ceramic (unspecified), china, complete, ivory
overall (teeth): 18 mm x 63 mm x 46 mm, 0.017 kg
overall (stand): 4 mm x 83 mm x 73 mm, 0.092 kg
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
Brown, H.C.

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