Our Friday feature “The Good Old Days…” continues. The device displayed above is the original denture worn by Winston Churchill during the Second World War. It is currently featured at the Royal College of Surgeons’ online museum exhibit:
Despite early concern, as Churchill grew older he became aware of the importance of his speech impediment. Rather than a hindrance it became a famous hallmark to be preserved at all costs. The shape and fit of the dentures and their accurate reproduction becomes all-important to maintain this. This demanded that great attention should be paid to the shape of the gold base, the porcelain teeth and the fit (or rather the lack of it) to the soft tissues of the upper jaw. This necessitated prolonged clinical sessions to fit or repair each denture as very fine adjustments needed to be made. The denture relied on the clasps on the back teeth for its retention with the gold palate and the front teeth kept free from the soft tissues – the exact opposite to the usual clinical objective. This allowed saliva to flow between the palate and plate, and this together with the lisp produced the characteristic phonetic result. It also placed great stress on the retaining clasps, which needed tightening or replacing from time to time.
The prolonged clinical sessions were accompanied by brandy in place of mouth wash and two cigars were the norm. Adjustments to the tissue fitting surface to produce the correct phonetics were a trial and error process. There were many minor adjustments, some made with a nail file. Churchill’s patience frequently wore thin. He would place his thumb against the denture while he was wearing it and with a flick it would become a projectile – on occasions hitting the opposite wall.
According to the Royal College of Surgeons, “… the denture is made from a cast gold plate, with platinum clasps holding porcelain teeth facings”.
Have a great weekend everyone!