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Upper ivory denture with human teeth. Source: Science Museum, London / CC BY 4.0

Teeth Scavenged from Fallen Soldiers at Waterloo Were Used as Dentures


Get ready to sink your teeth into a little-known fact about the infamous Battle of Waterloo! While many of us have heard of this bloody European battle that sent Napoleon Bonaparte packing, what you might not know is that the thousands of soldiers who fell in battle became an unexpected goldmine for dentists. The pearly whites of fallen soldiers proved to be a valuable source of teeth for creating dentures, which came to be known as “Waterloo Teeth.”

In the 19th century, dentistry was still a primitive and largely undeveloped branch of medicine. People from all classes suffered from tooth decay, prompting inventive solutions for replacing lost teeth. One early approach was to use ivory and wire springs, but this method was costly, ineffective, and prone to decay, resulting in unattractive loose teeth, discomfort and deplorably bad breath.

In a desperate attempt to find a better solution, dentists began to use human teeth to create dentures. The main issue, for obvious reasons, was finding volunteers willing to part with their gnashers. In a gruesome turn of events, dentists tried to satisfy growing denture demand by turning to the services of black-market body snatchers.

So-called Resurrectionists - a group of unscrupulous individuals - engaged in a despicable practice of robbing corpses of their teeth under the cover of darkness. While some of their loot came from recently executed convicts, more often than not, it was freshly buried civilians that fell victim to these grave robbers. As the demand for dentures made from real human teeth grew, so did the concerns of customers about the ethical implications of their purchase. In response, dentists began seeking alternative sources for their dentures, and they found it in an unlikely place: the battlefield.

Painting of the Royal Scots Greys at the Battle of Waterloo, by Elizabeth Thompson. (Public domain)

Painting of the Royal Scots Greys at the Battle of Waterloo, by Elizabeth Thompson. (Public domain)

This coincided with what has gone down in history as one of the bloodiest wars on record. The Battle of Waterloo, fought on June 18, 1815, was the culmination of the Hundred Days War, where Napoleon’s French army faced a coalition of forces led by the Duke of Wellington from Britain and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher from Prussia. The number of casualties is usually estimated at around 47,000, made up of mostly young and healthy men.

While most mourned the tragic events, some individuals saw an opportunity to profit. Soon teeth scavengers began looting the theater of war, which took place near the town of Waterloo in modern-day Belgium, removing the teeth of the fallen heroes. Many of these were shipped back to England in barrels, to be sorted and boiled. They were then assembled into sets of false dentures. Unbeknownst to most, the market was soon flooded with what were later dubbed “Waterloo teeth.”

Top image: Upper ivory denture with human teeth. Source: Science Museum, London / CC BY 4.0

By Cecilia Bogaard



Yes, Pete. Generations of children went to dentists to have cavities filled with toxic substances and to be told to clean their teeth with another toxic substance, both of which went to work on the young brains in a very negative manner lowering intelligence and increasing mental illnesses.

Meanwhile, those behind the multi-national companies that mass-marketed the food and beverages which helped cause the decay (also the ones behind the dentistry supplies and the toothpaste) brushed their teeth with safer things and had gold fillings where necessary.

So, I reckon you're right about a loss of intelligence and a rise in sinfulness. If I had agreed to participate in the latter decades ago, my teeth would have been fixed. That was a very specific offer I received upon my 'baptism' into it all, after which it was made clear to me just who ultimately ran the dental trade.

Pete Wagner's picture

IQs have gotten lower, so that’s one change.  And sinfulness higher, for two, my friend.  And so as three times a charm, ... ... ....   

Nobody gets paid to tell the truth.

Behold the joyful fate of being a soldier in the service of the King, an actor on the World stage.

Recently, we had a 'wise monarch' (Elizabeth II) defending 'traditional values' and a 'foolish prince' (Charles) espousing 'leftist nonsense'. Now, we have a 'wise monarch' (Charles) defending 'traditional values' and a 'foolish ex-prince' (Harry) espousing 'leftist nonsense'.

The plot goes on with different actors in the very same roles, while some make a killing out of highly questionable wars.

What has really changed?

Pete Wagner's picture

If anyone still believes there are no evil dentists in the world...

Nobody gets paid to tell the truth.

Cecilia Bogaard's picture


Cecilia Bogaard is one of the editors, researchers and writers on Ancient Origins. With an MA in Social Anthropology, and degree in Visual Communication (Photography), Cecilia has a passion for research, content creation and editing, especially as related to the... Read More

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