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The History of Orthodontics

posted on 11-9-18

Orthodontics is nothing new.  It has a very long history, but the techniques are constantly changing and advancing in ways that make treatment more effective today. Two or more years of schooling beyond dental school allows orthodontic specialists to become experts in the latest technologies in their field, allowing them to provide the best care for their patients.

Ancient Orthodontic Practices

Archaeologists and researchers have found evidence that early cultures, including the Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Etruscans (people who lived in Italy between 770 B.C. and 270 B.C.), practiced orthodontics.

Here’s how each culture took the first steps to approaching orthodontics:

  • Ancient Egyptians wrapped catgut around their teeth to close the gaps between their teeth.
  • Romans applied finger pressure to their teeth at regular intervals to adjust alignment.
  • Etruscans used a form of mouth guard to keep their teeth in place as part of a burial ritual, so the dead would look their best in the afterlife.

Early Orthodontics

Dental braces and orthodontic care began appearing in official medical journals in the 16th Century.

  • Pierre Fouchard, a French dental surgeon, known as the Father of Modern Dentistry, created the bandeau. A bandeau was a horseshoe-shaped piece of metal with holes in it that fit around the teeth to correct alignment.
  • Christophe-Francois Delabarre invented the wire crib, an early model of what we would recognize today as braces. It was a half-circle of wire placed directly on the teeth to maintain alignment.
  • Edward Hartley Angle, the Father of Modern Orthodontics, established the first proper diagnosis of orthodontic needs – such as misalignment. He began creating orthodontic appliances in 1880.
  • The First Set of Braces consisted of individual bands wrapped around each tooth, connected with wire. Specialists used whatever material was available at the time. Common materials included wood, silver, gold and ivory.

Modern Orthodontics

The 1970s saw immense progress and breakthroughs in orthodontic care, which led to another wave of orthodontic progress in the late 20th Century.

  • Dental adhesive was used to hold brackets into place, so wrapping each tooth individually became unnecessary.
  • Tie wires and elastic ligatures were created to keep braces tight and in place using brackets.
  • Stainless steel became the standard material, making orthodontic treatment more effective and sturdy.
  • Lingual braces were the first attempt at invisible braces. Lingual braces are fitted behind the teeth rather than in front of the teeth.
  • Research into plastic aligners in the 1990s brought about the invention of clear aligners as a new method for orthodontic treatment, which started in the early 2000s.

Current Orthodontic Practices

Orthodontics today is the product of a long history of advancements and breakthroughs. New orthodontic techniques are continuing to be developed in the 21st century.

Computerized designs and new manufacturing capabilities have allowed for more personalized care and production of orthodontic appliances. Orthodontic treatment today is more accessible to anyone at any stage of life.

Scans and impressions continue to improve in quality, helping to produce more accurate diagnoses, less patient discomfort and shorter treatment times.

Creating confident, healthy smiles is what orthodontics is all about. If you’re ready to find your best smile, visit your local UAO member orthodontist.

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