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Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - Kathryn Harkup

In Hunter’s book, The Natural History of Teeth, he wrote about the potential effectiveness of tooth transplants.

Hunter’s fame and recognised expertise meant that tooth transplants became a popular but expensive way of preserving a complete set of teeth when one was lost. The results looked considerably better than the alternative of ill-fitting dentures but were not without their own problems.

Hunter recommended young women be chosen as donors, since their teeth were smaller and fit better in the gaps left by the missing tooth in another’s mouth. Their young age would also mean that hopefully they had not been infected with any sexually transmitted disease, but it was no guarantee. Before an understanding of germ theory, eighteenth-century doctors and dentists saw no need for working in sterile environments; the best a recipient could hope for was that the donor tooth would be rinsed in warm water before being implanted in the jaws of the recipient.

These rather inadequate precautions certainly resulted in fatalities. It must also have caused a few awkward conversations when individuals had to explain how they had acquired syphilis or similar diseases while remaining faithful to their spouses. Incredibly, the practice of teeth transplants continued into the twentieth century.


Umm, ... lovley.