George Washington's weakness: His teeth

When George Washington opened his mouth 225 years ago this Wednesday at New York’s Federal Hall to take the oath as the first president of the United States, he wore awkward-fitting, painful, face-disfiguring dentures. For years, he had suffered from dental problems; that morning he had swollen, burning gums and only a single original tooth in his mouth. He wore this particular set of dentures during the last nine years of his life. They clacked and creaked open and shut on tight wire springs. …

He once pleaded with his dentist, John Greenwood, by letter, to avoid any change to the denture “which will, in the least degree force the lips out more than now do, as it does this too much already.” Members of his cabinet sadly noted how rarely the tight-lipped president smiled or laughed. Others insisted that his embarrassment about his dentures, which sometimes caused him to hiss as he spoke, made him reclusive.