We modern people tend to think that we invented everything. We picture that long ago people lived until they were only 35 years old and had intractable medical and dental conditions. Well, it might be surprising, but even ancient people worked to get that perfect smile and flawless bite. In fact, the history of braces is a long one, with roots that stretch from the crude metal bands of antiquity to the impressive colorful versions of today.
The First Orthodontists
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, the history of braces reaches back to ancient Egyptian times. Archaeologists have uncovered mummified remains with metal bands wrapped around their teeth. Later, in 400-500 BCE, both Aristotle and Hippocrates thought about ways to straighten teeth and repair dental conditions.
These primitive means of straightening teeth held sway until the 18th century, when the history of braces took a turn. In 1728, the French dentist Pierre Fauchard published a book named The Surgeon Dentist, which contained a chapter about straightening teeth. Fauchard invented a bandeau, which was a semicircular piece of precious metal that was used to expand the dental arch.
Modern Bracing’s First Steps
Other European and American dentists brought orthodontics along systematically from the 17th through the 19th centuries. In the 20th century, however, science went to the forefront of dental health. In the early 20th century, American Edward H. Angle devised the first simplified classification method of malocclusions, a hallmark in the history of braces which is still used today. Angle also contributed to the development and simplification of many dental appliances. Angle founded the first college of orthodontics and the first journal of orthodontics in 1907. There is a journal and website that still bear his name.
One hundred years ago, braces used gold, platinum, silver and other precious metals for different parts of the braces. The bands at that time wrapped completely around each tooth. Stainless steel was available in the late 1930s but wasn’t generally accepted until the mid-century. However, no matter which materials were used, orthodontists continued to wrap metal around each individual tooth.
In the 1970s, the “metal mouth” picture changed with the introduction of direct bonding techniques. Tooth brackets were invented, but 10 years elapsed before the adhesives were adequately developed,brackets could be used and the history of braces again changed dramatically.
Today, self-ligating brackets and lingual systems are being used. The latest technique is to use computer imaging to assure a better fit. If a patient has a moderate-to-severe malocclusion, metal bracing is still the best choice for patients and orthodontists. Today’s metal braces, however, are far ahead with better fit, appearance and effectiveness.
So what’s the latest in the history of braces? Braces with colored bands have grown popular with youngsters but all in all, braces haven’t changed dramatically. And there’s no need: Metal braces get the job done with minimal pain and cost. Why fix what isn’t broken!