Presidential Health: Dental, Vision and Hearing Problems

Recognizing Presidents Day, Feb. 21, 2011

President's Day Mouth Rushmore

Historically, Presidents Day is a day set aside to remember the leadership and contributions of the founder of our country, George Washington. Through the years, several states have added their own significance to the day, remembering Washington and other revered presidents.

While there are many opinions about the leadership strengths of each president, minimal recognition is given to the health issues the presidents faced. Enjoy reading this compilation of dental, vision and hearing problems of the United States presidents:

George Washington – by middle age had lost all his teeth; despite historical legend, he did not have wooden teeth, but owned several sets of dentures made from various materials, such as hippopotamus ivory, seashore ivory, lead, pigs, cows and elks; most were ill-fitting and distorted his lips, contributing to the dour expression on his face in many portraits

John Adams – lost all his teeth, but refused to wear false ones; had a lisp when speaking

Zachary Taylor – due to nearsightedness, kept his eyelids half-closed to sharpen his vision; read with one eye closed to prevent double vision

James Buchanan – an eye defect forced him to tilt his head slightly; eyelids continually twitched

Abraham Lincoln – part of his jaw was broken when a dentist pulled a tooth (without anesthesia)

Ulysses Grant – extremely tone-deaf

Grover Cleveland – experienced oral cancer on the side of his mouth where he chewed cigars

Theodore Roosevelt – suffered from poor vision; could not recognize his sons unless wearing his glasses; blind in one eye, possibly the result of a boxing match; lost hearing in his left ear after experiencing a severe throat infection and ruptured eardrums

Woodrow Wilson – dental professionals believe Wilson’s poor oral health and problems with tooth decay led to at least one stroke later in life

Harry Truman – diagnosed with a rare eye problem as a child; wore thick glasses; may have experienced problems with farsightedness and nearsightedness

John Kennedy – known to have poor hearing

Ronald Reagan – suffered from severe nearsightedness and wore contact lenses; when delivering a speech he removed one contact to read his notes and left in the other lens to see the audience; experienced hearing loss in one ear while filming a Hollywood Western; wore custom-made hearing aids

George H. Bush – diagnosed with early stages of glaucoma while serving as president

William Clinton – wore bilateral hearing aids

George W. Bush – known to have extensive dental work performed for tooth decay

Which is your favorite U.S. president? Who had the strongest leadership skills? Do any of them have dental, vision or hearing issues you can identify with? – Ken VanCleave, Ameritas Group