DuBois de Chémant (1753-1824)

A dissertation on artificial teeth (1804)

A dissertation on artificial teeth (1804)

Nicolas DuBois de Chémant (1753-1824), a French master surgeon, along with Alexis Duchâteau (1714-1792) were instrumental in the development of artificial teeth for. In the mid 1700’s, when the industrial revolution was spreading across of Europe, Duchâteau, had the idea of replacing missing (natural) teeth with artificial porcelain teeth. Inspired by the re-discovery of porcelain for serving china, Duchâteau who was working at the Sevres Porcelain Manufacturing company decided to replace human and animal bone for denture base and handcrafted ivory teeth with the inert porcelain. Despite being more hygienic than bone, porcelain was brittle, shrunk during processing and they generally did not fit well. While Duchâteau made some progress in making “indestructible” dentures, he was inexperienced in the field of dentistry.

Duchâteau’s unsuccessful “prosthesis” constructed in 1744 led him to consult with DuBois de Chémant, a dentist and entrepreneur. De Chémant lived in Sevres, near Paris, and worked tirelessly in the Sèvres porcelain factory. Forty-five years later in 1789, De Chémant published the Dissertation sur les avantages des nouvelles dents in Paris and presented to the Royal Academy of Science. The collaboration between De Chémant and Duchâteau was short lived since De Chémant did not give any credit to Duchâteau. His patent from King Louis XVI was for 16 years, but the French Revolution forced him to move to England where he obtained a patent from King George III.

De Chémant’s book in our collection. Is an English translation published in 1804. The French, first edition was published in 1797.  Accompanying the dissertation were sketches of various prostheses of teeth made from mineral paste which range from a single tooth to a complete set of teeth with gums above. De Chémant’s dissertation begins with emphasizing the importance of good oral hygiene. de Chémant completely rejects the use of human or animal teeth. He emphasizes that there is great danger of transplanting and using human teeth to replace missing teeth since they erode, cause ulcerations, the loss of neighboring teeth, and generalized skin conditions. He emphasized the use “mineral paste, which is ductile, susceptible of receiving and just the exact impression of the gums and pieces of teeth, without any need of extracting the latter” exactly matching the color of the gums and artificial teeth to those of the patient.

Based on research done by Abbey LePor, class of 2025 as part of her assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2021-2022. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.

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