They say a smile is worth a thousand words. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was more than that, as there was a time that dentures were made from dead men’s teeth—dead soldiers’ teeth, to be specific. If you still have your complete set of teeth, then that’s something worth smiling about. This story, however, might make you cringe a bit.

In 1815, the Caribbean colonies gave the British Empire a steady source of sugar. Who can resist all those sweet desserts that they could now make? As a result, tooth decay became a huge problem, but only for the rich who could afford those sweet treats. Not only that, but attempts of teeth whitening using acidic solutions also wore away enamels. That being the case, the demand for dentures for those who can afford them increased.

While there were dentures made from ivory, people were dissatisfied and were looking for other options. In fact, according to British Dental Association, “The whole of the denture, teeth, and gums, were made of china. In their favor, they were more hygienic. However, they were brittle. The colors weren’t very realistic, and generally, they did not fit well. They were the subject of a good deal of hilarity at the time.” There were also the porcelain ones, but people wanted dentures that looked real with natural looking teeth.

What could look like real and natural? Real and natural teeth.