Churchill’s teeth carry a lot of bite

A partial set of dentures used by former
British leader Winston Churchill — described as the teeth that saved the world
— sold at auction for $23,723.

The
upper dentures, one of several sets specially made for the wartime prime
minister, were used to maintain his distinctively slurred speaking style. They
were bought by a British collector of Churchill memorabilia at an auction in
England at three times the estimated price.

The
set of dentures were unique because they were designed to be loose-fitting so
that Mr. Churchill could preserve the diction famous from World War II-era radio
broadcasts, experts said.

“From
childhood, Churchill had a very distinctive natural lisp; he had trouble with
his S’s,” said Jane Hughes, who is head of learning at London’s Hunterian
Museum. “These are the teeth that saved the world.”

The
medical museum displays a duplicate set of Mr. Churchill’s dentures in a glass
cabinet alongside other famous teeth — including dentures worn by Queen Caroline,
the estranged wife of King George IV.

“He
wanted to maintain (the lisp) because he was already so well known for it,” she
said. “The dentures wouldn’t quite connect with the top of the mouth, but that
was on purpose.”

The
dentures were made by dental technician Derek Cudlipp, who produced three or
four identical sets for Mr, Churchill. One set is believed be have been buried
with the leader. The set at auction was sold by the son of Mr. Cudlipp.

The
false teeth were made just around the start of the war, when Mr. Churchill
would have been about 65, Ms. Hughes said.

The
politician is famous for his rousing speeches to the British nation during the
war, but his dental issues have been less well known. Ms. Hughes said Mr.
Churchill had many problems with his teeth as a child and probably lost some of
them quite early. The leader valued so highly the skill of his dentist, Wilfred
Fish, that he nominated him for a knighthood.

Mr.
Churchill served as prime minister from 1940 to 1945 and then from 1951 to 1955.

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